It's no secret going on maternity leave and then transitioning back to work can be incredibly stressful. It's so stressful, in fact, some moms don't end up returning to work at all—choosing instead to leave the workforce temporarily to be a stay-at-home mom.
As a way to fix this problem in their own company, Cincinatti-based Fifth Third Bank unveiled a "maternity concierge" service designed to help retain women employees. The program was so revolutionary—and the perks so incredibly plentiful—it even snagged a write-up in The Wall Street Journal. Now, over a year, later, it's clear the service achieved its goal: Employees who were part of the program were 25 percent more likely to keep working, the company announced.
What's so special about it? Fifth Third's maternity concierge offers pregnant women and new moms access to a variety of services to make work and their personal lives a bit more manageable. Expectant and new moms can get help with finding childcare, ordering breast pumps through insurance, scheduling meal deliveries, locating photographers for pregnancy portraits, ordering birth announcements, scouting strollers and gear, researching fitness programs and even planning baby showers or gender reveal parties. In some cases, the concierge even throws lavish parties for the new moms themselves. Most recently, the program started providing free breast milk shipping during work travel and a new financial empowerment component to help new parents plan for new expenses.
Since its launch last year, over 400 women have taken advantage of the program while pregnant or when they went back to work. And among these women, 86 percent decided to keep working six months after taking leave. But among the women who didn't enroll in the program, only 62 percent of women decided to go back to work. Back in the spring, when the bank surveyed the women who used the service, more than three-quarters said they're more likely to stay at the company because of the maternity concierge.
As the numbers suggest, if you treat your workers well and help them make work-life balance more achievable, they take note, and will want to keep helping you.
One of the women who used the program was Charnella Grossman (above, with her kids), a portfolio manager for the company and a mother to two daughters—a 2-month-old and a 10-month-old. “Fifth Third’s Maternity Concierge program is one of the reasons that I want to stay and grow with the company," she said. “They helped me plan my daughter’s birthday party, decorate the nursery, waited for a delivery at my house and so many more things to help relieve the stress of coming back to work." Last year, while pregnant with her youngest, she told Fast Company she used the maternity concierge for “everything that isn’t work related,” like picking up dry cleaning and getting help replacing broken heels, so she can focus on work when she's in the office.
Another worker, branch manager Katie Ockerman, said, "I couldn’t continue to work without the maternity concierge program. With three little kids, including twins, I’m always juggling. This lets me concentrate on work when I’m at work and on home when I’m at home.”
The concept was the brain child of Fifth Third Bank Chief Administrative Officer Teresa Tanner, who created the program by teaming up with Best Upon Request, a Cincinatti-based national concierge business. Tanner noticed that women weren't advancing at the company—they make up 60 percent of employees, but only 23 percent of senior-level managers. And women who took maternity leave left the bank in the 12 months after going back to work at twice the rate of other women. They also had a difficulty getting back into the swing of things. Explaining her decision to start the program, she said, "We want to support women, to give them another layer of help as they return to work if that’s what they want to do. As a company, we feel it’s our responsibility to help with that transition.”
Back in July 2017, Tanner told Fast Company the cost to bring the program to Fifth Third Bank's workers is "over six figures," but that it's "a relatively small percentage of our [benefits] budget.”
Now that the numbers are in about a year later, it looks like the investment has truly paid off.