An increasing number of employers are recognising the importance of attracting women to their workplace in the first instance and then retaining their female talent when they have children. Part of their approach is to listen to their employees needs in the form of engagement surveys, performance reviews and informal conversations, and then introduce family friendly policies and initiatives. Often they are introduced as a tangible reflection of company values such as innovation, empowerment, ownership, and performance excellence. Such practices allow both male and female staff with families to find a way to balance their professional and personal lives.
Offering maternity coaching is one way of showing employees that they are valued and that their employer understands that they may have different needs during this particular period in their lives. The benefits of coaching are numerous but include improved retention rates, better engaged staff, and increased productivity, in addition to being a useful recruitment tool for potential employees.
Coaching raises awareness about behaviours and actions. Enhanced awareness leads to a solid sense of responsibility, which is key to performance. Building a foundation of responsibility, where employees have a genuine sense of ownership, can be critical to business success.
In partnership with the employer, we agree the goals and scope of the programme as well as how success will be measured and reviewed. Maternity Coaching programmes are typically done over the course of three 1:1 sessions. The first one to take place prior to the commencement of maternity leave, the second to take place approximately 6 weeks before the woman returns to work and the final one takes place within 4-6 weeks of returning to work. The structure ensures the woman feels supported before, during and after her maternity leave.
- Session 1 allows time to think about her intentions before the baby arrives for example, what are her plans for returning to work, will she be going back full or part time, will it be to the same role and with regard to all of this, what concerns does she have. Spending time articulating these intentions before the baby arrives is a useful exercise and often triggers previously unknown thoughts and ideas.
- Session 2 is an opportunity for the woman to begin mentally transitioning back to the workplace. Again, through thoughtful and non-judgemental questioning, we review our initial conversation and explore if those intentions still hold true or if something has changed. Together, we design an action plan for the remaining few weeks of maternity leave and into the first month or so back at work.
- Session 3 is a review session to encourage, re-assess, re-evaluate and re-focus. It is typically a supportive yet challenging conversation and reflects on former intentions and action plan, against the reality of where she is now.
Some women feel that three sessions is sufficient, some choose to continue coaching in a private capacity, and some employers choose to extend the programme to provide further support.
Coaching complements other company support structures such as training, performance management or mentoring. It provides employees with access to someone who is independent, not tied up in the politics or history of the business and motivated solely to facilitate the employee to achieve their goals.