How companies can welcome back mums | Hanadi El Sayyed
Parenthood is exciting, life-changing, and transformational to the core – personally and professionally. It is an experience every woman looks forward to with much joy and anticipation beyond compare. Not entirely the case though for working expectant moms, who start having unwanted anxious feelings looming around this happiness, and soon become inherent to what’s supposed to be the greatest event in a woman’s life: the thought whether the mothers-to-be will be able to come back to work or will find themselves having to depart to cope with the new mom role.
Challenges of maternity leave
The hardest part about maternity leave will be coming back. Just as much as companies put effort to attract the best of talent, none (at least the successful ones) would like to see their proven professionals, who are already integrated within the organizational culture and business, walk out the door. And in this age where we speak of employee experience being a core differentiator of brands to attract and retain talent, it’s time companies who truly care about the women in their workforce to give this their attention.
What can organisations do?
What can organisations do to let expectant mothers, who pause their careers to care for children know they are welcome back?
First, an inspiring example
At KPMG, New York, they take this to their heart, they begin even before an employee leaves to give birth.
When an expectant mother informs KPMG’s HR that she intends to take maternity leave, the company spells out its various parental leave benefits—but with a twist: The information is tucked into a kind of shower gift, a new-parent kit that is sent to the employee’s home and includes a rattle, a baby bottle and a toddler-size T-shirt that says, “My Mom Works at KPMG.”
The gift kit is designed to be a sweetener in a collection of perks aimed at encouraging women who take maternity leave to consider returning to KPMG. It’s just another way to recognize the event and let them know what options they have available to them. The basic idea is wanting expectant moms to feel that the firm is supportive of them as individuals. It’s also a retention initiative. Since the inauguration, KPMG reported that the efforts to bring new mothers back to the firm appear to be working: Only about 12 per cent of those who go out on maternity leave don’t return.
Put your thinking where it matters most
Companies which succeed most in creating compelling employee experiences focus their energy where it matters most. And this is no different: HR in these organizations think beyond the maternity leave period itself to ensure that support exists when new moms are reentering the workforce.
There are some simple but powerful initiatives HR can take to help mothers return to work:
- Have well-defined policies regarding maternity leave – with empathy at their core - in place. Communicate with them and use them. Every pregnancy and path to parenthood is different, and HR must be prepared to work with every woman to help develop a personalized plan.
- Create a return plan for moms before their leave begins. This cannot be an afterthought. Managers should work with employees to ensure there’s a sensible return plan in place before mothers begin their leaves. This eases the anxiety and feeling of uncertainty at a time when mothers-to-be are most vulnerable to it.
- Lend support. Foster safe, supportive places for moms, by moms. Handbooks and HR guidelines on parental policies are a preliminary step. Mothers and mothers-to-be should know who they can go to with questions or problems, or who they can consult for a pep talk. Companies can help establish support groups for moms that help working mothers before and after they return from their maternity leave.
- Eliminate working-mom guilt. This is the most important, and most difficult, step in creating and maintaining a healthy workplace culture for parents. Remote working and flexible working policies are great ways to help working moms overcome the working mom guilt. Managers play a key role here in helping working moms balance out matters. Train managers on techniques how to do that if necessary.
- Communicate more often about parenthood in general. A huge number of the workforce are parents. HR needs to start talking about parenthood changing needs, especially for new parents returning from parental leave.
The companies that lean in and institute a culture that supports parents’ home lives will enjoy higher retention rates and more engagement. It is only with this support from management that women can succeed as mothers and as professionals. And let’s not forget – happier moms make for happier children who will grow to become successful future leaders