Strategies for long-term working parent satisfaction

Why do some parents stay and some leave?  How much influence does HR have over the longer-term success of parental-leave returners?  How much of it is down to managers?  Or does the ‘secret’ lie purely in an individual’s personal circumstances and outlook?

If we have the answers to these questions, it puts us in a much stronger position to support and build that talent pipeline.  And in the face of the UK’s falling productivity problem, we need to know what to do about it.

  1. What can HR do?

We work with some amazing HR teams.  The HR individuals who make the biggest difference are undoubtedly the ones with the most passion and drive to retain female talent and recognise that working dads also need support to carve healthier work/family balance.  One-to-one meetings through the parental-transition period ensure new parents feel supported and part of the organisation.  Explanation of the policies and entitlements can also be really helpful – some parents we speak to didn’t understand Shared Parental Leave so missed out completely.  In addition, being an enabler of flexible working discussions is something which is valued highly.

  1. Is it down to manager support?

It’s common knowledge that employees don’t leave their organisations, they leave their managers.  Communication breakdown or failure to build the manager/employee relationship are the 2 most common reasons for parents leaving, especially because love of the job (or at least deriving a sense of value from work) is more important to any parent sacrificing family time for work-life.  If managers can learn to embrace flexibility and be open and creative to achieving productivity in different ways, all employees benefit, not just working parents. 

  1. Individual circumstances and outlook

Most parents HAVE to work to keep the roof over the family’s head or to save for the family’s future security.  However, the happiest working parents, and therefore probably those who stay the longest and progress to senior roles, are the ones who know what their future goals are and recognise where they are heading longer-term, even when going through the bad patches.

Some people are naturally ‘glass half empty’ and life as a working parent can deplete emotional and physical energy levels even more.  Those with a natural (or learned) positive, open attitude, and a willingness to change and develop, will always have the edge over more pessimistic or negative employees.

These individuals are also much more likely to seek out support networks in and out of work, or mentoring opportunities – both can support progression into more senior roles.

So, can we make a difference to retention and productivity?  Of course!  Thinking about supporting from these 3 angles is, however, of fundamental importance – as 1 level of support builds on the other.  Coaching, mentoring and networking opportunities for the individuals to assess their circumstances and develop a positive outlook, coupled with supportive managers and HR will make all the difference.

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