How can I integrate new mothers back into my workforce?
New mothers are likely to have had at least 10 years of career experience. This represents an investment that organisations can't afford to lose, especially in industries where there is an obvious skills shortage.
So, what can your organisation do to ensure that valued women employees on maternity leave come back – and stay back?
Creating a family-friendly culture is, without question, the single most important way to recruit and retain those highly qualified mothers. To take the first steps towards this, there are four basic steps to take:
- Welcome back meeting – As well as inductions for new recruits, it's equally important to recognise the challenges a new mum faces in her transition back to work. As well as contact while they are on their maternity leave, implementing a formal ‘reinduction' is a simple way to address this. Help them understand what has happened in their absence; what's the same, what's new, what's coming? If there are new members of staff, it would be good for them to meet your returning mum face-to-face so they can understand the role that everyone will play going forward.
- Preparing colleagues – The stress on a woman returning to work is compounded if no acknowledgement is made of her altered circumstances. Outside the induction, where this should happen more formally, alert managers to be welcoming and engaged, and to deflect and defuse lack of understanding or unkind comments. They should also appreciate the need for short-notice absence and aim to promote a positive approach to maternity leave as a shared and profound human experience – It's how we each got here, after all.
- Being flexible – Flexible working practices are vital for working women. Your working mothers will be the main decision-maker and organiser of childcare, when the child is ill or well. But one way to create a divided workforce is to offer flexible working only to mothers. If you introduce it you must offer it to all employees. The good news is that if you introduce flexible working, it puts you way ahead in the stakes to attract and keep the best and brightest talent.
- Addressing stress – Most pregnant women going on maternity leave are stressed about tying up loose ends and organising the take-over of their role. Returning mothers are anxious often due to a dip in confidence as the end of their maternity leave looms. By providing support for them throughout this period, you will not only boost their confidence, you will also reduce the resettling in period and maximise the chances that they will stay.
Maternity coaching is a relatively new service in the UK , but it has already proven itself invaluable in helping new mothers leave work feeling positive about their return and then to return motivated and determined to stay. The outlay involved in maternity coaching represents a significant return on investment, especially compared to the cost of replacing a highly trained woman, or the average cost of a sex discrimination suit.
The business benefits of introducing a family-friendly policy are not a one-way street. The return benefits of doing so include decreased recruitment and retention costs, increased retention rates, increased loyalty and – most important of all – making yourself an employer of choice, able to attract the cream of recruits for any post you advertise.
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