What can your organisation do to ensure that your valued maternity leave returners do actually come back and, more importantly, be the effective and content employees?
As an organisation, you may have been forced to look at your company structure, your policies, revisit your bottom line and the future that may once have looked bright, may now appear less so.
But amongst this darkness is a beam of light.
Organisations like yours now have a golden opportunity to make a real difference to your staff who are planning their return to work after completing their maternity leave whilst improving your diversity and inclusion policies.
1. Embracing Their Individual Challenges
As you do for your new staff, it’s just as important to recognise the unique challenges a new mum faces in her transition back to work. In my experience, return to work mums make the most productive, loyal and efficient members of your team. And I’m not alone with this view. Most of the employers I speak to say the same. However, it’s the mums themselves who often hide issues with confidence, anxiety and sometimes guilt.
By embracing and valuing these personal challenges and implementing a well-planned transition process with your returning staff member will go a long way to ensuring she returns feeling motivated, included and supported, because the demands of her previous role and family life are inconsistent.
2. Effective Preparation
It’s beneficial for you to prepare before they leave to go on maternity leave. By putting a plan into place, it helps you, your returners and your wider organisation to manage change and all of you will benefit from a smooth transition with a positive outcome. Being as clear as possible with a plan of what the first few months will look will give them reassurance that as their employer, you’re thinking ahead and need and want them to return.
3. 90-Day Plan
A 90-day plan should include your staff member’s usual ‘keep in touch days’, check-in conversations and an offer of reduced hours during their first three months (maybe more). This phased return plan is a structure that, due to the pandemic, more and more employers are adopting to ensure they are supporting their returning employees. The more you include your employee in their return plan, the more they will feel valued, in control and confident.
4. 1:1 Coaching
It is very common for returning mothers to have feelings of anxiety about coping with their work responsibilities and their ability to do the job, so offering return to work coaching can certainly help your employee and you with their transition. 1:1 coaching helps your returner to move forward in ways that are authentically satisfying by resolving their unique situations, dilemmas and concerns so they can return feeling and knowing they are supported.
5. Frequent Check-ins
Once they are back, it’s a good to agree and arrange frequent check-ins with your returner. Concerns over stress and the mental health of employees are so high on the corporate agenda right now, so if you have weekly check-ins, they can act as an early warning beacon, helping to flag up when they maybe are struggling to cope. These check-ins are the perfect opportunity for you to reassure her that she is still a valued part of the team. By communicating to your returner that your organisation has not significantly moved on in her absence can reduce the shock factor, especially on their first day back.
Support for your returners throughout this period of personal change will not only boost their confidence but will help to reduce the settling in period and maximise the chances that they will stay. By implementing these simple, yet effective, strategies will lower your recruitment and retention costs, improve employee your retention rates and staff loyalty. Most importantly, you will be positioning your organisation as an employer of choice, able to attract the cream of new recruits for any post you advertise.
The more preparation and effort you put into managing your returners, the smoother their return to work will be. It’s the most effective method of avoiding those bumps in the road for both of you.