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How to build an organisational business case for return-to-work coaching

In this uncertain world, organisations that thrive are those that are agile and able to adapt to their changing context. This demands a resilient workforce; one that embraces diversity of thought, and which promotes inclusion and belonging. Research tells us organisations that perform best are those with both gender and racial diversity in their leadership teams. Achieving this is not an easy task, and it requires planning and thoughtful talent management to establish and nurture a diverse talent pipeline.

When HR teams are at the beginning of their journey exploring maternity or parent coaching, they often rightly start by thinking about the business case for their proposal. We invite them to take a step back and take a systemic approach. What is their argument? Why should the organisation pay attention to the needs of their working parents? Only by getting clear on the experiences of their colleagues who are parents, will they be able to understand the obstacles working parents face and therefore be able to implement change.

In 2023 Jessica Heagren published her report Careers after Babies. Her research found that:

  • 24% women return to work full time after having a baby, yet 57% leave within two years, many due to redundancy or ill health.

  • The number of women in management roles drops by 32% after having children, and the number of women in admin roles increases by 44%

  • Career progression is impacted disproportionately taking women’s careers on average 10 years to recover with women finding more junior roles open to flexibility

86% of women will be a mother by the time they turn 40. That means that by not thinking about working mums means you're not thinking about 43% of the working population. If your organisation wants to be competitive in the market, then attracting and retaining the best talent is imperative.

A key part of enabling women to combine parenting with a career is the ability for men and dads to work flexibly. Men are less likely to request flexible working and are more likely to be judged negatively for requesting it. For organisations to prioritise workplace gender equity, wellbeing and equal parenting, a multifaceted approach is needed. One that reflects the unique nature of the complexity of becoming a parent.

Offering coaching is a step in the right direction, but offered on its own, coaching doesn’t acknowledge the culture of the organisation, the skills of line managers in managing family leave or the different needs of the employees. We encourage organisations to foster a supportive eco system in which the environment (e.g., is flexible working an option), the quality of line management (e.g., training in how to best support colleagues on leave) and a variety of supportive options (e.g., coaching, mentoring and peer to peer networks) is provided and is inclusive (e.g. offered to all parents). Leadership has an important role to play too, by talking about their support for all types of family leave at all colleague meetings and in one-to-one informal conversations.

How to build your argument

  • Look at your data – for example, when do women leave? How does your maternity/family leave offer compare with the competition? Who do you promote and reward? How do you handle flexible working requests?

  • Gather qualitative feedback – what do your parents say about working for your organisation? What is their experience? What is your reputation in the market?

  • Clarify your priorities - Based on your data, what is most important? How does this align with the overall business or EDI strategy? What do you want to achieve and how will you get there? How will you measure progress?

  • Be realistic – it will take time to realise your goals. The nature of the maternity transition means that overall impact of any interventions you put in place will take years to show tangible change. However, gathering qualitative feedback will help you gauge if what you are doing is making a difference.

We partner with organisations to support them in implementing coaching programmes, mentoring programmes and broader organisational initiatives. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you, please get in touch.

My colleague Sarah Turner and I have been busy creating content highlighting the importance of organisations providing support for working parents. As part of this, we created this video series exploring the entire journey of maternity leave, from before the leave starts, through to preparing to return and then the first few months back at work. If you or your organisation would like to understand more about how to support your employees as they take parental leave, please get in touch.

This blog post is a collaboration between Maternity Coaches Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.

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