Managing parental leave in the digital age

In the competition for talent, doing something to smooth your people’s transition to parenthood has become almost a hygiene factor. Employers benchmarking against their sector find that maternity coaching, or – more inclusively – a parental leave programme, is now an expected provision in sectors such as banking, legal and professional services firms, and increasingly tech, insurance, media, fast-moving consumer goods and retail sectors.

It’s a more mature marketplace in 2018 than when I played my part in pioneering it back in the early 2000s. Most clients now favour a blended programme, with online material for all, group coaching for some, and 1:1 coaching for the most senior or top talent.

But, let’s look again. Like any field developing for a decade and a half, this one was ripe for a re-think; for disruption.

Why?

– Corporate and individual lifestyles have changed

– There is increasing pressure for programmes to be sustainable, scalable and cost-effective for the employer

– Most large employers want to address their global (or at least geographically dispersed) audience in a consistent way

– Managers are busier than ever and need swift, practical, just-in-time advice and tools

– The internal population is increasingly knowledgeable and skilful in this area (HR, internal coaches / mentors / buddies)

– Individuals have high expectations that their employer will recognise this transition

– Consumers generally have ready access to generic support and forums around parenthood

– Consumers expect timely (i.e. instant) and individualised support as standard

– Day-to-day life is already awash with amazing tech and with practical life hacks

Today’s programme needs an online solution, available to all, but not simply an online library. That’s too passive and fails to keep pace with the type of provision consumers access in their day-to-day lives. Today’s employees expect ‘Software as a Solution’: a programme that adapts to the individual’s type and stage of leave and delivers just-in time advice and tools. You can have the elixir of life sitting on a shelf but it won’t help unless you take it down and consume it. Online resources have to reach out to users and anticipate needs and themes at each stage of the journey.

Alongside this, there is nothing more impactful than the support and challenge of a 1:1 coach. This coaching, for individuals and their managers, must be delivered by highly credible coaches who understand the culture and demands of the organisation as well as being experts in leadership and career coaching and having specialist qualifications in parent transition coaching. Most of our clients now expect that coaching to be delivered virtually. That way, the team of coaches we deploy for any given client can become deeply immersed in the organisational culture, coaching across regions, sharing best practice; gathering and spreading organisational insights.

The final piece is to support networking. If you have a large parental leave population then virtual group coaching before, during and on return from leave has very good impact. However, a wider parents’ network event will achieve similar ends alongside specialist software guiding the individual and manager through the day-to-day process of the parent transition itself. That network can also double up as a matching service for internal buddies and mentors, a powerful source of reassurance that a personal integration of work+family can be achieved.

To download My Family Care’s latest whitepaper on the best practice for parent transitions, please click here.

About Jennifer Liston-Smith

Jennifer Liston-Smith is the the Director and Head of Coaching & Consultancy at My Family Care.

Jennifer joined My Family Care in 2010 specifically to build and lead this provision on the basis of her established reputation and experience. In her role, she also looks after the My Family Care thought leadership agenda through which they provide Think Tanks and experience-sharing webinars to a thriving HR & Diversity leaders community.

With many years experience in large organisations and in providing leadership coaching and internal mentoring programmes and in coaching supervision, Jennifer was one of the UK pioneers of maternity coaching in the early 2000s and has helped many leading employers build award-winning programmes to coach and support working parents and carers.

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