A new education programme highlights the benefits new parents can bring to their employers.
What if we could turn the idea of maternity leave – and other periods of extended parental leave – on its head and see it as an opportunity for professional development rather than a career break?
An EdTech company has done just that, creating training programmes which aim to highlight and build upon the skills parents and carers gain from significant life transitions and how these are transferable to the workplace.
Lifeed was originally founded in Italy by author and social entrepreneur Riccarda Zezza [pictured] based on her own experience of holding senior management positions in the corporate world for over 15 years before being demoted after having her second child. She felt passionately that her experiences as a parent added value to her skills as an employee, honing important soft skills such as empathy, creativity, communication, time management and leadership while employers tended to view being a working parent more as a burden than a benefit.
She wrote the book ‘Maternity as a Master’ and put together a scientific board to help create her company Lifeed. Now, her products have been used by over 14,000 people across 23 countries, including at large organisations like EY, Accenture and Danone and they are coming to the UK.
They include a ‘New Parents’ programme which is backed up by years of research and is presented through weekly micro-learning modules and multimedia and interactive content to aid reflection, journalling and practice and experiment with soft skills.
The programme aims to share ideas and personal reflections and experiences and boost emotional intelligence through the parent community, connecting new parents with other employees from a range of companies who are also going through the same process.
The digital training program takes place over several months and participants have access to an online portal where they access resources. Employers can also view their progress.
Danone Italy introduced the programme in 2017. It has championed work life balance initiatives in keeping with its family friendly image. It’s a big issue for the company with 64% of its employees being caregivers, the majority of whom are parents.
Sonia Malaspina, HR Director, South Europe Danone, Specialised Nutrition, says the programme has shown how parents’ soft skills have been enhanced as a result of their period of parental leave. She says: “We’ve seen a number of improved skills, including prioritization (+35%), decision making (+15%), delegation (+35%) and managing complex situations (+10%) as well as empathy (+35%) and mental agility (+20%).
“We have demonstrated that parenthood doesn’t penalize the company, but instead gives professionals improved skills that unleash creative abilities, organisational skills and lots of other skills that we have been able to recognize and measure with the Lifeed method.”
Energy company Enel Italy also used the Lifeed New Parents programme and found that 89% of participants felt they had improved their skills in the workplace and had more energy ‘across the board’ and 75% felt closer to their company. The most enhanced skills were communication, creativity, time management and networking.
Employees who take part in the programme generally say it has given them more confidence in their different roles as mums and workers and shown there is no barrier between the skills they have learned in those roles. They say the course has also helped them cope better with the stress of becoming a new parent and made them feel more committed to their employer. One mum said: “I’m stronger now. I no longer need to approach my different roles (mum, worker, wife, etc.) differently. I can put my whole self into what I do with no trouble at all and without dividing up my skills.”
A dad said it had taught him to be more focused, to delegate more and to put things into perspective better. And another mum said simply: “I think motherhood has simply amplified qualities I’ve always had, empathy first and foremost, because if you’re not tuned in to the problem/the other person then you won’t come up with the solutions, creative or otherwise, and if you have two kids you know it’s highly unlikely that what works with one will also work with the other….”