You’ve got a team of ‘champions’ in your workplace who can bring you amazing business benefits.
They’re your emotionally ‘experienced’ employees. People who have been through key personal challenges and experiences and learnt a lot from them. These champs want their colleagues to benefit from what they’ve learnt along the way.
Mentors or buddies can offer huge benefits around maternity or parental leave. It’s a time of life like no other. This is why we offer Parental Programmes to untangle the issues that can make returning to work daunting.
I’ve seen these superheroes, through Confidence to Return, ready to put their experiences to use. They add a new dimension to workplaces, helping to create a more inclusive, communicative environment.
Mentor in the making
I recognised Danielle Crawford had champion potential while giving her Maternity Coaching over 52 weeks.
She's a talented Associate Solicitor at Winckworth Sherwood LLP, who are using my Parental Programme service.
When coaching ended, I recommended – to Danielle, and the HR department – that she would make a great role model, champion and mentor for future ‘new parent’ employees at Winckworth Sherwood.
The forward-thinking firm embraced the idea and is now looking at her becoming a ‘Maternity Mentor’, assisting other soon-to-be and new parents in the future.
Q&A with Danielle Crawford
Let's see what Danielle Crawford thinks.
Sandie: Tell us about your employment history with Winckworth Sherwood LLP
Danielle: ‘I joined WS as a Licensing Assistant in 2008. In December 2010 I started my training contract and I completed seats in Licensing, Social Housing, Corporate/Commercial and Employment. I qualified into the Employment team on 1 January 2013.’
Sandie: What was it like to return to work after your first child? Were there challenges?
Danielle: ‘After I had Alex, I returned to work full time after just 8 months. My biggest challenge was the guilt I felt leaving Alex in full time nursery at such a young age. However, I soon realised Alex was happy and we got into a good routine. We also made the most of weekends and holidays and I found that booking a special two-week holiday as soon as I returned to work gave me something to look forward to.’
Sandie: When you returned to work after your second child, Theo, you changed your mind about seeking promotion to become a 'Senior Assoc'. Why was that?
Danielle: ‘During my maternity leave with Theo, I was invited to apply for the role of Senior Associate. This was a very difficult decision for me because I am very ambitious but, at the same time, I was conscious that I was not necessarily ready for the increase in responsibilities after being out of the workplace for a year.
‘I knew that my peers would be applying for the role and part of me wanted to apply so that I was not ‘left behind’. However, I knew that my ego was not a good reason to apply and I decided that I would rather focus on improving my areas of weakness over the course of the next 12 months so that I feel more confident applying for the role next year.’
Sandie: What will being a 'mentor' bring to you personally?
Danielle: ‘I love to help people progress both professionally and personally. I often spend time encouraging and supporting junior members of staff as I am keen to see them succeed. I therefore hope I can help support and encourage expectant parents and parents in a similar way.’
Sandie: What’s your take on the business benefit of mentors?
Danielle: ‘I think mentors are great for businesses as both mentors and mentees can learn a lot from each other as they share ideas. I also think people generally perform better if they have the right support network giving them encouragement and building their confidence.’
Sandie: How would it have helped you transition if you'd had a mentor?
Danielle: ‘Your sessions helped me to realise that I had something I could give back to others who are going through a similar experience.
‘When I told people I was returning to work full time, I was surprised that others perceived this to be a negative and assumed that it could not have been my choice (both in and out of the workplace).
‘However, you helped me to maintain a positive outlook in respect of my return to work and I realised that others may also benefit from hearing positive experiences and tips rather than having their fears reinforced by others.’
Sandie: How did it make you feel when HR agreed that you'd make a wonderful Maternity Mentor?
Danielle: ‘I was really pleased to hear that HR had the confidence in my abilities.’
Sandie: How are you feeling about starting on this new project and area of work?
Danielle: ‘I am very excited about working with people during what is likely to be one of the most exciting and challenging periods of their life.’
Sandie: What will it give to you personally, now and in the future?
Danielle: ‘I hope that it will be a great opportunity to meet and get to know more people across the firm both now and in the future.’
Mentor business benefits
Call them buddies or mentors, there are many business benefits of encouraging employees to help their colleagues.
I’ve seen how this gives the ‘mentor’ a sense of purpose: some good can come out of what they went through. It has allowed them to support others.
The ‘mentee’ feels supported at work and have a ‘go to’ person who understands what they’ve been through.
And it can help your business:
- create a positive employer brand, which shows you are a place where talented women want to work
- provide positive role models for other junior women
- give added purpose to the employee who becomes the mentor
- encourage communication between employees
- create role models, where new parents can ‘mirror’ the employee who has transitioned back to business from becoming a parent
- enable new parents to have extra continued support, months after the official coaching has finished
- actively support new parents in returning to work, creating loyalty
- in the long term, reduce the gender pay gap as more women feel supported after having children in a culture that embraces it and they ‘mirror’ the mentor’s promotional success.
Low overheads, high reward,
All the mentor and mentee really need is some time to talk – be it in person over coffee, by email, text, WhatsApp or Messenger.
Look wider than maternity mentors
Mentors and buddies can help with lots of issues.
For example, a senior member of a law firm suffered with a mental health issue. When recovered, they decided they wanted to give back to the firm and created a ‘buddy culture’.
This gave employees a route to talk to someone who’s been through it, whatever it is.
Parental Programmes from Confidence to Return can include:
- the successful handover
- managing guilt
- fears and expectations
- confidence and Mindfulness
- countdown to Return
- integrating work and parenting
- maintaining career momentum
- time management
‘It was really useful to have someone to speak to who had knowledge of the firm but who was also independent. I really felt comfortable speaking with Sandie and used her as a sounding board throughout the programme.
‘I felt that Sandie was very supportive both on a professional level and a personal level. I also felt that she helped to improve my confidence.
‘(Without the programme) there would have been more distance between me and the firm and I would not have had the reassurances Sandie provided. I now feel much more confident in my abilities and in managing my work-life balance.
‘Sandie was really supportive, empathetic and positive. I would definitely recommend her.’
Danielle Crawford, Associate Solicitor. Winckworth Sherwood LLP
Another firm I consult for, Watson Farley & Williams LLP, also has a ‘buddy’ system in place for maternity returners. They give their mentors specialist training to enable them to have all the tools they need to support other women returning to work after having a child.
Returning to work is our business. Get in touch to find out how we can help you support your employees.
Call 07939 916779