How to attract, support, motivate and retain working parents

Creating positive working relationships and environments

Working Wonder co-founders Calli Louis and Nichola Johnson-Marshall explore how companies can best support working parents as they transition into the workforce.

This isn’t just an article for working parents or soon-to-be working parents. It’s an article for anyone who cares about creating positive working relationships and environments. For people who want to learn what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, to see how they can best support and help that person thrive.

We think it’s important to share how companies can best support working parents as they transition back into (paid!) work for a number of reasons we outline below. Also, if you are a working parent yourself, or a manager of one, these can also serve as useful pointers that you can request to ensure your/their career is better supported and you can thrive at work.

Why is it important to have a diverse and gender-balanced workforce in the industry?

Supporting working parents, especially working mums, ensures greater gender balance in your organisation and in the industry as a whole. There is a direct correlation in women’s ability to reach and maintain leadership positions once they become working parents and according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022: “It will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap”. Therefore, the more you do to support, motivate and retain working parents, the more likely it is that they will stay in the industry and become senior leaders.

Specific to the advertising industry, if you have a workforce that better reflects the societal make up of consumers you are advertising to – and it’s a well-known stat that around 80% of purchasing decisions are made by women – the better gender balance you have. Thus, you are able to better capture diversity of thought and creativity for your campaigns.

Take a closer look at your parental policies

Firstly, how easy is it for you, existing and potential employees to find all of your parental policies? Don’t have them buried away on in a contract or save them for once someone has done five interviews and been given the job. Put them on your website and make them really easy to find. We always advise that they are signposted on your home page.

Don’t just focus on just offering a generous maternity leave policy, it is equally as important to offer an equitable paternity leave policy too as well as adoption leave. More progressive companies are developing proactive and sensitive policies to support those with fertility issues such as IVF support and miscarriage leave.

Actually share all of your policies at the very start of the recruitment process. We suggest you discuss internally if you can drop any qualifying tenure to be eligible for these policies as this avoids any barriers for those currently trying for a baby to apply for a new role.

Think about how you can support working parents with childcare costs. A recent study by Pregnant then Screwed showed that parents are struggling due to rising costs: “Parents are in crisis. Almost half of mothers are considering leaving their job due to childcare costs, whilst two thirds say their childcare costs the same or more than their rent or mortgage.”

Flexible childcare providers such as Bubble have a corporate offering that companies can offer as an employee perk.

Normalise flexible working for all

Historically flexible working requests were mostly reserved for working parents and those with caring responsibilities and typically it was something that you had to ask/beg for.

One saving grace as a direct result of the pandemic was a far wider appreciation and awareness around the benefits of flexible working. Almost overnight, the majority of people in office-based workplaces switched to working remotely. It has become normalised for everyone, and it has since evolved into hybrid working, which has allowed for greater flexibility and control over how and where they work. We hear overwhelmingly that this works for working parents as it enables them to better fit work around childcare and gives them a much better work/life balance too.

When you are evolving your flexible working practices, don’t go back to the old way of having employees request it under specific circumstances. Instead have it integrated into your hybrid way of working and trust your employees to design the way that best works for them.

How coaching can support their return to (paid) work

When a parent returns to work after having or caring for a baby it can often be a challenging transition – but it doesn’t have to be. New parents are juggling a lot – whether it’s emotional guilt of leaving their baby, new childcare logistics and routine, not forgetting the inevitable curve balls when their little one gets sick.

1:1 coaching can provide valuable support to a working parent, as it gives them that non-judgmental confidential space to put themselves and their careers first. Plus, it enables them to re-build their confidence in a working environment.

Don’t just offer this to working mums. Secondary parents /working dads too can really benefit from coaching. Provide support as they adjust their working patterns to ensure they are sharing the parental load with their partner, confidently owning their working parent identity, and specifically in the case of working dads, become a role model within the company and wider industry.

Calli Louis and Nichola Johnson-Marshall are co-founders of Working Wonder a cultural transformation consultancy that empowers companies and their employees to create progressive, inclusive and positive working environments and practices.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 07 December 2023