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Transitional Parental Support –Why There Is A Need For Parental Coaching In The Workplace

Gillian Managing Director of Emerge Development Consultancy which she founded 28 years ago. She is a Master Executive Coach working with many CEOs and managing Directors globally. She is also an international speaker and in 2020 was named by f: Entrepreneur as one of the leading UK Female Entrepreneurs in the I also campaign. This year she was voted Leader of the Year by the Women’s Business Club.

 
Executive Contributor Gillian Jones-Williams

In today's dynamic work environment, the journey into parenthood marks a significant transition for employees. With the advent of parental leave policies, organisations are looking more closely at how they support their employees through this pivotal phase. However, the period of parental leave often poses challenges for both the organisation and the employee. The loss of valuable talent during this time, and the subsequent struggle of returning parents to reintegrate into the workforce, call for a nuanced approach – one that is more than just policy, it is genuine proactive support and modelling of best practice in the form of parental coaching.


 Family model, Security protection and health insurance.

This week has bought this deep into my thoughts as I experienced the joy of welcoming my second grandchild into the world, and being reminded once again of the changes, challenges, and transitions that both parents go through at this time. My daughter did not have a great experience during her first maternity leave, and it affected her deeply so I have seen firsthand the impact a negative parental leave experience can have on the parent’s lives. This great transition can be a challenging and emotional time in a person's life, with highs and lows that need consistent and practical support.


This support will help to retain great talent, demonstrate the company’s commitment to inclusion and ensure that legislation is being adhered to.


Offering coaching to parents ‘to be’ and returning parents can be highly beneficial for their mental wellbeing and engagement as well as for retention within the business. Providing coaching sessions with supporting information/resources for managers to guide them through all parental matters, including maternity/paternity leave, adoption, IVF and surrogacy means they are confident and well equipped for pregnancy, leave, and return to work. 


Research has shown that a worrying number of mothers who return to work will leave after one year. This loss of talent and experience is costly and damaging for organisations. The changing patterns of family life have brought fresh challenges for employers as they have to accommodate longer periods of maternity and paternity leave and acknowledge requests for flexible working.


One of the main drivers in the maternity coaching boom is that new parents are more likely to be in their 30s or even 40s and so may have at least 10 years’ solid career experience behind them. They represent an investment that employers cannot afford to lose. Added to this the commitment made as part of the gender pay gap ‘response’ cannot be ignored. Coaching can significantly reduce this fall-out rate.


The benefits

Parental coaching can offer numerous benefits for both parents and their children, as well as for employers and society as a whole. Here are some key benefits:


Work-life balance

Coaching helps parents navigate the challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities, which can lead to reduced stress and greater overall well-being which in turn results in a more productive worker.


Career advancement

Parents who receive coaching may be better equipped to navigate the workplace, set career goals, increase their visibility, and look at opportunities for advancement. Without coaching, lack of confidence can mean that mothers, in particular, can move backwards in their career.


Employee retention and engagement

Employers who offer parental coaching truly demonstrate a commitment to supporting employees which can increase employee loyalty, engagement, and retention.


Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism

Coaching may lead to fewer absences from work due to family-related issues and employees may be more productive while at work, which can result in cost savings for employers.


The opposite, often experienced in employees who are not offered parental coaching, can be increased stress and burnout from trying to juggle work and family responsibilities, and the disappointment of feeling that they are unsupported by their employers. This can lead to decreased job satisfaction ultimately resulting in less productivity at work and potentially higher turnover rates.


Areas of focus


  • Work-Life Integration Strategies: enabling strategies to effectively balance work and family responsibilities.

  • Career Planning and Development: Helping parents identify their career goals and develop a plan for achieving them, including strategies for re-entering the workforce after a period of leave.

  • Stress Management and Self-Care: Supporting both parents to consider strategies for managing stress and guilt, such as leaving children or not being able to pay sufficient attention to either work or home.

  • Advocacy Skills: Empowering parents to advocate for themselves in the workplace, including negotiating flexible work arrangements, parental leave, and other benefits.


Defining a parental coaching programmed

After working with many organizations and individual we have discovered the essence of a great parental coaching programme. The programme should be designed to achieve, but not be limited to, the following outcomes:


  • To boost retention of this important segment of the workforce

  • Enable the parental leaver to feel confident in discussing their situation and needs on returning to work

  • To give the maternity/paternity leaver support to maintain self-confidence and keep them engaged

  • Ensure a smooth and effective transition back to work 

  • To minimize the impact on career progression

  • To facilitate the smooth and rapid resumption of performance

  • To ensure that managers are clear on their responsibility for maternity within their team and understand the bigger picture of how to support people pre-leave, during and on return to work


For maximum impact 3 sessions scheduled over the period from when pregnancy is announced, until when the person has returned to work is optimum. 


  • Coaching Session 1 - focusing on preparation for the period ahead. 

  • Coaching Session 2 - focusing on feelings now that the baby has arrived and processing thoughts

  • about returning. The second session should take place shortly before the maternity leave ends and is designed to pick up and refresh the plan to return to work.

  • Coaching Session 3 - focusing on feelings now that the parent has returned to work and helping them to cope with work situations and the personal feelings that may arise from them.


Testimonials

To illustrate some of the needs of this target audience, here are some of the comments from women who have attended parental coaching programmers with us.


"When I announced my pregnancy, I felt a mix of excitement and anxiety about what happen to my career. Having support to talk to a coach and access to resources made a world of difference." 


"I struggled so much with guilt before I left about leaving my team during my maternity leave. It was so helpful to have someone to talk to and to put a plan together was very calming and helped me navigate through it." 


“I had no idea that I would have such intense feelings about returning to work and it was invaluable to have my coach to help me address my concerns, set realistic expectations, and develop strategies for putting in place a healthy work-life balance.”


"Before I returned to work, I was shocked at how I felt I had lost my confidence and struggled with imposter syndrome. Coaching sessions were a big part about helping me deal with limiting beliefs and building my confidence back.”


“It was a bit overwhelming to return to work but my coach helped me to prepare for some conversations with my manager and make a plan for easing back in so I could build up gradually.”


Recognizing these challenges and providing tailored support is crucial for fostering an inclusive and supportive environment. Parental coaching tailored to the needs of parents can help them regain their confidence, manage stress, and navigate career progression effectively.


However, the coach is only one part of the support for the returner, it is also vital that managers cultivate a culture of empathy and inclusivity within their teams. Managers need a lot of support too in understanding what they should be doing and saying and the importance of acknowledging the unique needs of returning parents and offering unwavering support.


Conclusion

Parental coaching represents a proactive approach to supporting employees through the transformative journey of parenthood. By addressing the needs of expectant parents, offering tailored support during parental leave, and empowering returners upon their reintegration into the workforce, not only will it be a positive experience for the returner, but organizations will also retain vital talent.


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Read more from Gillian Jones-Williams

 

Gillian Jones-Williams, Emerge Development Consultancy

Gillian Managing Director of Emerge Development Consultancy which she founded 28 years ago. She is a Master Executive Coach working with many CEOs and managing Directors globally. She is also an international speaker and in 2020 was named by f: Entrepreneur as one of the leading UK Female Entrepreneurs in the Ialso campaign. In 2023 she was named as Leader of the Year by the Women’s Business Club,

 

Gillian founded the RISE Women’s Development Programme which is delivered both in the UK and the Middle East, and Saudi and is her absolute passion.

 

She is also the co-author of How to Create a Coaching Culture, 50 Top Tools for Coaching, and the author of Locked Down but Not Out which is a diary of the first 3 months of the pandemic to raise money for the bereaved families of the NHS workers who died during COVID-19.

 

Emerge provide expert Parental Transition Coaching. If you want to know more about this support of any of our other training and development solutions, please do contact us on 01329 820580 or via info@emergeuk.com.

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