Often when a team member announces she is pregnant, the onus and responsibility is often left to her, as to how she will manage her exit and then all going well, her return. By breaking down the phases into three key phases, we help mothers and their managers, approach this stage from both angles. If you imagine a three legged stool, one is the mother, one the manager and one the organisation, they all have to be aligned to ensure that stool stays standing!
For the manager of a new mum, it’s a transition into a new team structure (without the mother), sometimes with a replacement for a short period of time, which requires the team to transition again when the mother returns to that team.
To ensure successful transitions from a manager’s perspective, consider the following:
As a manager, one of your team advises you they are pregnant. First and foremost, congratulate them! It may seem a shock, but remember a manager who seems to care, is a manager they will come back to work for. Once you (and possibly they) have got over the shock:
- Talk about expectations from their side and yours, what needs to happen to ensure a successful handover. Document these so both parties are on the same page.
- Find the relevant information from Human Resources to help them and you to be well informed of polices and procedures to follow.
- Check in regularly with how they are and where possible identify someone to handover to prior to their leave.
- Document a clear communication plan for while they are on leave, what they want to keep informed about and how often they want to be contacted. Most mothers want to be kept in the loop, where in the past, managers left them alone as they didn’t want to intrude.
Your team member departs for parental leave, leaving you with a changed team.
To ensure your team member remains engaged while absent, again, first and foremost, congratulate them when the baby comes along. Perhaps give them a phone call and see how mother and baby are doing. Many mothers we work with hugely appreciate a phone call, even if it ends up being a voicemail message.
- Commit to your communications plan, and keep them informed with what is going on with the team and the organisation that may be of interest. Keep in touch to see if they would like to be contacted more or less as their expectations may change.
- Keep your existing team in the loop with the development of the new mum and what that means for the team in terms of changing workload, replacements etc.
- Contact the mum one month prior to returning to confirm what information they need to get them prepared to return.
This is the stage where lots of returning mums fall off the career track and their talent is lost as a result of either returning to a role with less challenge or deciding not to return at all. This re-entry phase back is hugely important.
To ensure a successful transition back to work consider the following:
- Treat the returning mum as a new employee to the team. Ensure they have a work space, relevant tools (computer) and perhaps a welcome back morning tea to touch base with new team members or any changes that they may not be aware of.
- Where possible allow flexibility to help their transition back to the organisation e.g. working hours, working from home occasionally etc.
- Allow time. Keep checking in with the returning mum and the team to ensure they have what they need to perform at a high performance level.
Our research shows that the manager is a major factor in whether the transition back to work is successful or not for a returning mum. So think carefully about how you can best support the mother and the team through this period.