The commercial case for parenthood coaching and how it supports inclusion

Trudi Ryan,

Did you know that the UK workforce is made up of more parents than non-parents? 

According to the Office for National Statistics, three in four mothers with dependent children (76%) were employed in the UK between April and June 2021, the highest level for 20 years, and 92% of fathers with dependent children were in work. In comparison, 69% of women, and 72% of men, without dependent children were employed.

There are several reasons to explain why more parents – and in particular, more mothers – are returning to work after having children. On the one hand, we’re seeing more mothers entering higher education and senior leadership roles, but on the other, the cost-of-living crisis is compelling many to return to work through financial necessity, rather than personal choice.

Not surprisingly, there are significantly fewer working mothers when compared with working fathers, yet both struggle with a lack of flexibility: just 33% of mothers and 24% of fathers report having any kind of special working arrangement to accommodate their role as a parent. In other words, the vast majority are expected to return to work and pick up where they left off as though they haven’t just been through a completely life-changing event.

How realistic is that?

Include working parents (or pay a high price)

Looking at this through the lens of talent attraction and retention, working mothers and primary parents represent one of the most capable and experienced workforce demographics, yet organisations are failing to recognise their value in talent terms. How can this be? We all know that enabling people to thrive at work is key to driving engagement and retention.

Think about it: the average cost to replace an employee ranges anywhere from one half to two times the employee’s annual salary (Gallup), and that’s before you even consider loss of subject matter expertise. This is the harsh reality of poor retention, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Employers can reduce attrition and the costs that come with it.

The solution is simple: become more inclusive. What’s more, when we talk about this in the context of working parents, who make up a workforce majority, the potential opportunity is game-changing.

So what can employers do to help parents thrive at work?

Coaching parents to flourish in the workplace

The first step lies in creating a culture in which primary parents – most often, mothers – are able to openly express what they need and want without fear of judgement or penalty. This calls for psychological safety as well as practical support in the form of coaching that supports them before, during, and after parental leave.

At Wondrous, we design our parenthood coaching across three stages to create the end-to-end support that delivers tangible benefits for people and business.

1) Preparing for parental leave
The goal here is to help the parent to leave well. What does that mean exactly? It means helping them to prepare for, and enjoy, their absence whilst also setting up a system that works for their team members. It’s about planning and minimising disruption. But it’s also about creating reassurances and showing team members how things can work well despite the parent’s impending absence.

2) Reconnecting and renegotiating
The next phase takes place during the period of absence and is designed to help parents identify, and reconcile, with the decisions they need to make based on their own needs and those of their child. This involves supporting the parent as they reconnect with work, and discover how things have changed, with a view to negotiating their best return.

A great example of this involved a senior director in the retail industry who made two visits to her workplace whilst on maternity leave. The new baby accompanied her on the first visit, providing an important opportunity to celebrate her as a mother, and the second trip, which was a solo visit, enabled her team to demonstrate how well they had stepped up and how well they were performing in her absence. By engineering the visits in this way, we were able to celebrate both the new mother and the team’s success, creating a more inclusive experience for everyone involved.

3) Returning to work
At Wondrous, we often find that when a team excels in the absence of a leader, those team members typically want to continue stepping up and developing new skills. This presents an opportunity not just for them, but also for the returning parent to come back into a different and more strategic role. The key point here is that returning to work will not necessarily see the parent picking up right where they left off – and this is where a combination of coaching and time away from work can really help leaders to recognise new opportunities for development and positive change.

“Letting go in a planned and structured way was a great opportunity for me to build and develop my team, because for the first time I really had to let go! I had to make the emotional commitment to hand things over knowing and showing that I trusted them. Coming back, I’ve not wanted to claw back but to build further…”
Female Commercial Director 

The biggest benefit of coaching parents to leave well and return well is limited disruption to the organisation, and that’s worth its weight in gold. Why? Because any drop in confidence will affect the parent’s ability to be an effective leader at work. However, if they return feeling confident, supported, and properly re-introduced, they’re far more likely to become that superb leader once again.

Coaching: a point of differentiation

Of course, we’d be remiss to write a blog about parental coaching without addressing the fact that parenthood now comes in many different forms – and this is something that employers need to be conscious of when developing any parental support programme. We’re talking about single parents doing it alone; same sex parents; parents who adopt; and people who become a parent or guardian unexpectedly. The various routes to parenthood are more diverse than ever, but one similarity remains: it’s always a significant life transition that needs managing alongside our working lives. By recognising this, and by offering coaching to parents who want it, organisations can positively differentiate themselves. They can send a clear message that says: “We value you, and we’re prepared to go above and beyond to support you.” 

The case for parenthood coaching ultimately comes down to people’s inherent need to feel cared for, valued, and included – and for organisations that still haven’t managed to bring enough women into senior leadership roles, coaching provides a genuine opportunity to help bridge that gap, become more inclusive, and build the bottom line.

“My Wondrous coach helped me to verbalise my thoughts and provided support in terms of understanding my needs and goals. I now feel confident to have my voice heard, and feel able to speak up and not feel judged.”
Female Production Director

So what’s it to be? Is your organisation ready to step forward and invest? Or are you content with the status quo?

To learn more about the benefits of parenthood coaching, get in touch with the Wondrous team today 

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