RETURNING FROM PARENTAL LEAVE CAN BE STRESSFUL. HOW SOME EMPLOYERS AIM TO FIX THAT. | Kanebridge News
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RETURNING FROM PARENTAL LEAVE CAN BE STRESSFUL. HOW SOME EMPLOYERS AIM TO FIX THAT.

Companies increasingly are creating formal ‘reboarding’ programs to help new parents transition back to work more easily.

By TARA WEISS
Mon, Feb 5, 2024 3:20pmGrey Clock 5 min

Sarah Tucker-Ray, a partner in McKinsey’s Washington, D.C., office, felt a lot of trepidation when she took a six-month parental leave in 2022.

“There is fear about, ‘Am I going to get written out of the story?’ ” says the 36-year-old Tucker-Ray, whose daughter, Viviana, was born in August 2022. “Is someone going to step in for me and take over? How will I come back?”

She addressed those fears in a reintegration plan that she drafted before going on leave. It included instructions for those who would be covering her workload while she was out, and it laid out what she wanted her job to look like when she returned. For example, Tucker-Ray didn’t want her role to change significantly, but she asked to not be given any internal projects—those focused on McKinsey’s own operations versus those of outside clients—during her first six months back. She also thought about small stuff, such as writing down all of her passwords, and she connected with other working mothers at the company who served as peer counselors before she went on leave.

“They told me that the goal for week one is to get dressed, have breakfast with my baby, get into a suit without getting spilled on and get out the door,” she says. “It sounds so basic but I hadn’t had to do that yet.”

The days, weeks, and months after a new parent returns to work after leave can be a critical and challenging time for an employee. Many experience anxiety about how they are going to manage work and parenting, and some end up feeling like a failure at both.

To address that, some organisations have launched formal “reboarding” programs that structure those first months back after leave so they aren’t overwhelming for new parents, while also providing them with emotional support. McKinsey tested such a program in Europe and then expanded it globally

Many see it as a business imperative. Organisations are making substantial investments in paid maternity and paternity leave—in 2023, 40% of organisations in a Society for Human Resource Management survey offered paid maternity leave and 32% offered paid paternity leave—and they want to ensure new parents return to work and are productive and content when they do.

Tucker-Ray was happy to learn that McKinsey would cover the cost of her daughter and her husband to join her on a business trip. PHOTO: ELIZABETH FRANTZ FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Creating a plan

A successful reboarding program requires planning, and it and starts long before an employee goes on leave, consultants and HR leaders say. It begins with mapping out a comprehensive work-coverage plan, including if and under what circumstances the employee wants to be contacted about work while out on leave. The plan also should create clear expectations about what the return-to-work will look like, including the employee’s job description post-leave and even an explanation of what that first daunting day back might entail.

Many reboarding programs also connect new moms with experienced working parents or colleagues who have recently returned from parental leaves, as well as a coach (often an outside consultant) who can help set priorities and guidance on best practices.

When Maria del Mar Martinez became head of McKinsey’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in Europe in 2018, she learned that working moms left the management-consulting firm at nearly double the rate of their childless female peers with similar tenure. In exit interviews, women shared common grievances, including the challenge of balancing parenthood with a demanding job, a lack of support from their managers and few role models.

She heard similar sentiments in Asia and the U.S.

“That was a business problem,” says del Mar Martinez, now the global head of DEI at McKinsey. “I don’t want to lose those amazing women coming up the pipeline.”

To combat attrition, del Mar Martinez created a reboarding pilot program in Europe that included coaching employees before, during and after a parental leave. (Men are eligible to take part in the program if they have taken 12 weeks or more of leave.)

Built into the plan was a guarantee that new parents would have “meaningful work” upon their return, with the option of slowing down if that’s what they wanted, says del Mar Martinez. One issue, she and others say, is that managers often incorrectly assume that new mothers want lighter workloads or don’t want to travel, which is why it’s important for employees to spell out their preferences in a reboarding plan.

The McKinsey pilot required managers to confirm they understood their employee’s reintegration plan and to calibrate goals in performance reviews to ensure the person taking leave wouldn’t be penalised.

It worked. McKinsey closed the European attrition gap in 18 months, del Mar Martinez says, and later expanded the program globally.

The manager’s role

Other companies are increasing the support they offer to new parents, too, including Wall Street’s Morgan Stanley, which in 2019 appointed Allyson Bronner head of family advocacy at the company’s institutional division, a full-time position that focuses on supporting employees before, during and after parental leaves.

Bronner says one of the best ways to ensure a successful return experience for new parents is to include managers in the process.

To that end, she meets with an expecting employee’s manager between the 25th and 30th week of pregnancy to preview what the employee’s return-to-work will look like and discuss best practices for easing the transition.

“It’s important to set the scene and give them tools to manage their employees,” she says.

She says her next meeting with the manager occurs about a month before the employee is due back to discuss how the first month should be structured. She suggests the manager call the new parent two to three weeks ahead to preview what the first few days back will look like—namely, checking email and showing colleagues baby pictures.

The support continues throughout the first several months, with managers having weekly check-ins with the employee for the first six weeks and then monthly check-ins after that. Bronner encourages managers to ask new parents how they are doing and how their child care is going to determine whether they would benefit from more support or advice in that area.

Since Morgan Stanley created the family advocacy role, “it feels like there has been a culture shift,” Bronner says. “It’s hard to quantify in numbers, but culturally it feels like we’re moving in a more positive direction.”

A culture shift is also under way at chip-equipment maker ASML, which recently expanded the paid parental leave it offers and in May joined forces with employee-benefits firm Parentaly to create a support system for new parents.

ASML is in a male-dominated industry, says Karen Reinhardt, the firm’s chief human-resource officer in the U.S., so retaining women is critical to having a diverse workforce.

As of December, 82 employees had registered for the reboarding program, “more people than we expected,” Reinhardt says.

Among them is Meredith Polm Sheain of San Diego, a knowledge-management developer who went out on maternity leave in late August. In her reboarding plan, she made clear that she wanted to be notified while on leave about any bumps in a recently launched product. She also laid out her priorities for the first two months of her return.

“I felt so much better about the concept of returning to work once I gave my team this plan,” says Polm Sheain, who returned to work on Dec. 22. “I left them and myself in the best position I could.”

Reboarding isn’t the only new benefit companies are offering to make life easier for new parents.

McKinsey’s Tucker-Ray was asked to attend a partner conference in Atlanta about six weeks after returning from maternity leave. The firm covered the cost of her daughter and caregiver (her husband) to join her on the trip since she was still breast-feeding.

“I would have been torn about going away for nearly a week for an internal event but it became a nonevent,” she says. “It got rid of the barrier to feeling you can’t participate fully in parenting and be a leader.”



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Saudi Arabia’s 2024 Summer TOURISM Plans Unveils New Incentives and Global Attractions

“Saudi Summer is Next Door” plans to boost tourism in the Kingdom over four months across seven destinations.

Wed, May 22, 2024 4 min

Saudi Arabia has unveiled its plan to attract international tourists this summer. The strategy includes appealing visa options, complimentary airline tickets for families, a lineup of major events, and opportunities for tax-free shopping.

The initiative, organized under the guidance of Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), is named “Saudi Summer is Next Door.”

Jeddah

Extensive Summer 2024 Tourism Activities

The initiative will span four months, ending in September, and will be hosted across seven key destinations: Aseer, Al Baha, Taif, the Red Sea, Jeddah, Riyadh, and AlUla.

It features over 550 tourism products and more than 150 specially tailored offers and packages for families and various interest groups including adventure enthusiasts, luxury seekers, and cultural and heritage buffs.

The launch event of the Saudi Summer Program 2024 was attended by notable figures such as Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, in addition to more than 250 key partners from both public and private sectors, prominent media personalities, and influential opinion leaders.

Showcasing Global Events and Cultural Richness

This year’s program will also welcome back the Jeddah Season and introduce the Aseer Season, each filled with various activities and events for families. The Kingdom will host several significant events as part of the summer program, including the first Esports World Cup in Riyadh, an eight-week competition featuring top esports athletes, and various boxing tournaments in Riyadh and Jeddah.

During the event, Al Khateeb highlighted the latest global tourism trends, the Kingdom’s growth in the tourism sector, and the record-high tourist numbers that have propelled Saudi Arabia to the top of the UN World Tourism list and the G20 nations list.

Al Baha

Al Khateeb emphasized, “Saudi Arabia is witnessing a transformative period in tourism, driven by our vision to position the Kingdom as a premier global destination. The Saudi Summer Program 2024 is our commitment to showcasing the rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and unparalleled hospitality that Saudi Arabia offers. “We invite local and international tourists to experience the diversity of our seven unique destinations and take advantage of the exceptional offers and packages designed to create unforgettable memories. “This initiative, supported by our strategic partnerships and groundbreaking efforts like the eVisa and increased flight connectivity, demonstrates our dedication to making Saudi Arabia more accessible and appealing to tourists worldwide. “We look forward to welcoming visitors from all corners of the globe to explore and enjoy the vibrant experiences that await them this summer.”

Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, also remarked, “Saudi tourism is witnessing unparalleled development at all levels, achieving great leaps in recent years, which I witnessed during my multiple visits to this hospitable country.”

Riyadh

“Saudi Arabia has global indicators related to the number of tourists, which has qualified it to top the UN World Tourism list of significant tourist destinations.”

“All of these great achievements for Saudi tourism would not have been possible without proper planning by those in charge of the sector in the Kingdom and the great potential it possesses in terms of diverse climates, stunning natural landmarks, and the generosity of Saudi people who are distinguished by their hospitality, raising the ceiling of ambitions for new achievements.”

STA CEO Fahd Hamidaddin said: “While temperatures in the region rise to high levels during summer, temperatures in the highlands of Saudi Arabia in the southern region decrease to the extent that we even witnessed snowfall in Al Soudah yesterday.” “Through the promotional campaign for the Saudi Summer Program 2024, we seek to highlight the uniqueness of our destinations and their climatic, natural, and cultural diversity, along with the exceptional events and activities happening during summer. “This year’s summer program includes more than 550 tourism products and 150 special offers designed in collaboration with STA’s partners, which include attractive offers from hotels, airlines offering free tickets for children in partnership with major travel, tourism, and aviation companies, and exceptional products in the Aseer Season and Jeddah Season like tax-free shopping offers and many new and exciting experiences such as private beaches for tourists and ladies’ beaches.”

“The campaign slogan “Saudi Summer is Next Door” embodies an open invitation to explore the magic of Saudi destinations and their diversity. This diversity is expressed with simple words that reflect the uniqueness of each destination, such as “Closer,” “Cooler,” “More Beautiful,” and “More Affordable.”

The private sector is a very important component of the success of tourism programs and initiatives, and the Saudi Tourism Authority is committed to empowering it by fostering demand for products and offers that align with the aspirations of tourists globally.

The launch of the Saudi Summer Program 2024 marks a period when visiting the Kingdom has become easier, smoother, and safer through measures such as the availability of the eVisa to citizens of 66 countries, a 20 percent reduction in eVisa prices, and a significant increase in the number of weekly flights from

Gulf cities to Saudi summer destinations, now totaling 1,100.

Residents of the GCC can also benefit from the GCC residents visa, which allows them multiple entries and a stay of up to 90 days in the Kingdom over a year. Moreover, the number of hotel rooms available to travelers is set to increase, with an additional 25,000 rooms expected to be added this year.

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