With new and often overwhelming responsibilities, the need to shift priorities and redefine personal balance can make the transition into working parenthood really difficult. Often, employees who are at this life stage have the most institutional knowledge, and thus are of high value to their organization, so retention becomes paramount.
When you are faced with the need to find a different balance between your home life and work life, suggest a plan for how you can meet your needs while still meeting the needs of the company. For example, asking about a flexible work schedule, telecommuting options, job sharing possibilities, and technology to support flexibility (e.g., PDAs) can ease your transition. The truth is, if you can demonstrate mutually beneficial solutions, the firm builds loyalty and retains you and everyone wins. If you hear, “No, because we haven't done this before,” ask “Why not?” Be bold and take the risk so that you might hear “Yes,” even if on a trial basis.
Building a network at the office through a parent-pairing mentorship program or new parent support group can help substantially. If your office doesn't already have one, suggest starting one.
As employees are becoming parents, it's time for leadership in firms to flex parental instincts by being attentive, considerate, understanding, responsive, and asking, “Why not?” When companies become a valuable partner to their employees during this important time, they capitalize on a great opportunity to enhance their relationship with their employees, build loyalty, and help assure retention of their best people.
Lastly, it's important to note that the way employees and leaders handle these situations reflect profoundly on how companies value and treat their employees. It's not just the potential parents who are paying attention. This becomes an important part of the organizational culture.
Laura Smith is MD of US Human Resources at Edelman