Parents Returning to Work: The Challenges, Considerations and Opportunities in Employer Branding

April 1, 2021 • 4 min read

Parents Returning to Work: The Challenges, Considerations and Opportunities in Employer Branding

Chrissy Thornhill

Chrissy Thornhill

I’m a mom of two beautiful kids, and I was lucky enough to take an eight-month break from work for the birth of both of my children – thank you Salesforce! So the challenges I’ve faced come from a place of privilege, at least when compared to the vast majority of moms in the US. I also have an extremely supportive husband who works from home.

Nonetheless, I still dealt with challenges I’m positive a majority of parents – not just moms – face. Dealing with brain fog and trying to balance the demands of my job with my home life taught me first-hand how critical it is to support parents in returning to work. And it also got me thinking about the impact this has on a company’s employer brand.

The first step is offering the right support

Returning to work meant finding a routine that worked for both my husband and I. We’re fortunate that both of us have a wonderfully supportive employer, so this wasn’t too much of a challenge for us. But it did take some patience, trial and error, a lot of communication, and continues to be a daily balancing act.

So what does good support look like?

A manager’s reaction to the news that a mother is pregnant is the key moment in all of this.

It begins well before pregnancy. How does a soon-to-be mom see other mothers being treated? When she announces her pregnancy, is the mother greeted with excitement? Have other mothers picked up their careers right where they left off? Has a mother been given a promotion while on maternity leave?

A manager’s reaction to the news that a mother is pregnant is the key moment in all of this. There should be genuine excitement that a baby is on the way. Managers should recognize how nervous an employee will be in sharing the news, and if necessary should be trained in how to react. Questions about work – ‘Will you be taking paid leave?’ ‘When do you think you’ll be ready to come back?’ – should be the furthest thing from the manager’s mind, as the mental stress this places on the mother will impact her throughout her pregnancy and beyond.

I’m a mom of two beautiful kids, and I was lucky enough to take an eight-month break from work for the birth of both of my children – thank you Salesforce!

When the time comes for the mother to return, the following measures can help:

● Brain fog is real, so grant new parents some grace. Give them a day off every week for the first couple of months while they work to find their feet.

● Offer private breastfeeding/pumping rooms.

● Offer corporate discounts to local daycare facilities, and access to emergency childcare services when necessary.

● Wait for the baby to get older before you ask mom to travel, and provide Milk Stork for free to traveling moms.

Building parental support into your EB strategy

Taking care of working moms (and all parents) isn’t just a matter of doing the right thing. It is also distinctly self-serving, as it can seriously enhance your employer branding strategy. Happy parents will be eager to share their stories, after all.

Taking care of working moms (and all parents) is distinctly self-serving, as it can seriously enhance your employer branding strategy.

If you’re in the process of improving support for your office parents, work to find the stories in your company where things are already going right. Perhaps there’s a Director who is known for being incredibly supportive. Publish an internal blog post to try and evoke change within your company. Encourage other leaders to engage, perhaps by hosting an internal panel discussing how to be supportive of parents. You can then use that internal panel to generate content to share with the world.

The more stories you uncover, the more you’ll see others at your company following suit. I’ve always found the more we engage our employees with external content about Salesforce, the more engaged they are inside Salesforce.

The following forms of content are great places to start:

Blog posts

Publish career stories about moms, dads, same sex couples. Find remarkable stories and everyday stories of your parental perks in action. Prospective and current candidates want to read this, even if they aren’t expecting. How your company treats parents is a good indicator of how employees are treated in general.

Word from the top

Have company leaders publish posts to their LinkedIn covering how they support expecting and new parents personally, and work some of your company’s benefits into the mix. After all, hearing directly from an employee is more authentic and trusted than anything you could ever publish as a brand. Other leaders at your company will also take note. And stories like this spread like wildfire on LinkedIn.

Instagram

Ask your working parents to share photos and testimonials of being a working parent at your company. Parents are always proud to share adorable baby pictures, and the world of Instagram is always happy to ooh and ahh over those adorable babies.

My favorite part? When we share our parents’ photos and stories and other employees start to chime in in the comments with their own stories of support. This is your employer brand story unfolding for the entire world in the most authentic way possible – through the voice of your employees. Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about.

Being supportive of parents demands real effort, but it’s an investment that can have a big impact not only on the employee experience but also on your employer brand. It’s a win for the company and a win for everyone else, too.

About the author: Chrissy Thornhill is a self-proclaimed employer brand nerd and is often recognized by others as a veteran in the space. In the last 13 years, she’s touched every aspect of employer brand and recruitment marketing across numerous companies and industries. One thing has remained the same — her ability to talk your ear off about the ever-changing landscape of employee advocacy.