How do you move from feeling deep level maternity and paternity support is nice to have in your business to we need to have this in our business. Now.
6 minute read.
In a time of lower economic growth and financial uncertainty most businesses tighten the purse strings or cut investment in training but this is also a time when you need your best talent to keep you moving forward.
Taking a “We’re in this together” approach, one of the questions I like to ask my corporate clients is “If you could use me in your business for a year for free, what would you have me do?”
Followed by, “If you had to put a value on that, what would it be?”
Some businesses I speak to don’t have an existing or fixed budget for the work I do or find it easy to quantify the transformation possible in order to create a compelling business case. They can put a value on the current worth of their top performers, are able to estimate the cost saving of retaining their female talent versus replacing them and look at the achievements or revenue generated for the business to date. But if they add in the increased value of supporting a female employee to embrace her full potential as she transitions to motherhood the figure can grow exponentially.
A Pilot Study
One company I work with calculated a group of 8 maternity leavers had billed £6.5 million the year before they all became pregnant and had a collective total of £30 million invested in their recruitment and careers to date. A 40k investment to stop £36M walking out the door made fiscal sense but what are the measures now in place to consider the growth and advancements of this group as they return to the workplace and can line managers really get their head around the numbers when they are looking at the day-to-day?
The Cost of Replacement
Ernst & Young said it typically costs the firm 1.5 times an employee’s salary to replace them. It can also mean the years of understanding your business’ idiosyncrasies and loyalty developed by an employee who has been a key part of your company’s growth is gone. The warmth and wisdom of mothers should not be underestimated in creating a robust and relevant business for the future yet many companies are still struggling with HOW to actually do this.
Smart companies I am talking to recognize that for a parental coaching program to be successful it cannot be a stand-alone service between the employee and the coach, or positioned solely as a recruitment tool to graduates, but something that involves middle line management and is embraced throughout the culture of the organization to show long term commitment to a more gender balanced business.
72 companies have signed up to the recent Women in Finance Charter led by HM Treasury and following the Gadhia Report led by Virgin Money CEO, Jayne-Anne Gadhia. One of the first signatories CEO and Director of Affinity Capital, Emma Davidson has said:
Pushing for gender equality in the financial services industry is in the global interests of future prosperity and growth.
I would add that pushing for gender equality across all business sectors is our goal and certainly this belief underpins the work that I do.
More companies are picking up on the trend to support not just mothers but new parents but there is still some way to go before it becomes the norm.
Morgan Stanley data and research shows it pays to invest in gender diversity. Investing in deep level maternity and paternity coaching is not for the faint hearted and it is an investment but is it one your business can afford not to make?
Businesses looking to work with me often have to overcome one of three challenges.
- Language & Connection
There are many pressing things happening in business today and the majority of gender initiatives are a side project rather than a core business issue although this is changing. Those signing off the budget or responsible for the internal promotion, uptake and potential success may not “get” the intuitive and emotionally based way that I work or feel that I connect with the challenges they face day-to-day and as a result feel conflicted in supporting it. Many women have learnt to get ahead adopting masculine strategies so encouraging female colleagues to surrender and embrace more naturally derived feminine qualities (which they are then encouraged to share in the workplace) may feel counter-intuitive and a risk.
Agreeing from the outset the main driver for bringing me into the business, knowing upfront what would be the biggest win and what they would have to see from me in order to feel it has been a success are all good starting points.
Let’s address the elephants in the room.
- Not all coachees return
Some may find the transition to motherhood the catalyst they needed to change direction but these employees provide data and detail to help improve retention and process moving forward. Is your business culture as female and family friendly as it could be? Non-returners you have a connected relationship with offer you powerful insights for change and allow you both to move forward more efficiently.
- Some employees return just “for the money”
It is normal for a new mothers’ focus to shift but understanding and identifying this sooner rather than later and exploring whether this can be altered is key for everyone’s success.
- Some women become more ambitious when they become a mother
UK Companies who invested in improving their maternity benefits before Shared Parental Leave was introduced are now finding they face a quandary over improving their packages for Dads. Making it attractive and affordable for men to step forward and share parenting roles more equally so their female employees can return more quickly and easily is a double bind. There isn’t the budget for matching what’s been offered to women and they face a potential push back if maternity support is withdrawn but without making the packages equal the catch-22 of “Motherhood Penalty and Daddy Bonus” will continue. I see many women who feel a great deal of conflict when they see the thin blue line and definitely don’t see themselves slowing down but in fact ramp up their ambitions.
- Some mothers have conflicting, unconscious bias
Many women want to be great role models particularly for their daughters and see them enjoy equal opportunities but don’t want to share their maternity leave or consider the wider needs of their business. Understanding the pregnancy journey and transition to motherhood is unique for each woman but there are similarities many new mothers adopt. Common behavior married with internal and external unconscious bias leads to default patterns but the safe space of coaching can provide room to challenge, explore limiting beliefs and create a new normal in which women and men can thrive.
- We are not great at talking about how we feel
Companies tell me that managing pregnancy is often a “water cooler” conversation” but debating it out in the open can make everyone very uncomfortable. I’m often asked to “go gently” and temper my language, ensuring there is not too much focus on emotional intelligence whilst recognizing 21st century leadership utilizes many feminine-led qualities.
The Good News
Whilst there is now greater understanding around the fact that becoming a parent reshapes the way women view their career and relationship with their employer, many companies do not fully understand how deeply this goes. Investing in your female talent to help them realise their potential makes sound business sense whatever the climate, but in a time of change it is vital and a worthwhile investment.
If you are an individual wanting to work with me we can connect directly or I can help you create the business case for your company to support you.