Maternity Mentoring or Coaching – which is best for your organisation?

Maternity Coaching


Maternity Mentoring
Resource Usually paid, external coaches with professionally qualification


Internal mentors — working parents within the business, who have been trained but may or may not be professionally qualified or accredited


What do they typically offer? One-to-one coaching and group workshops designed to support employees (and in some instances the wider business context i.e. line managers) before, during and after maternity leave The maternity mentor typically acts as a role model, offering a combined professional (work) identity with a highly personal (mother) identity. There is a strong sense of shared experience, with someone who’s been there before and knows the organisation from the inside.

They offer one to one support from inside the organisation, before, during maternity leave and on return to work.

Good practice is for the mentor to be a peer at the same level (though for reasons of confidentiality not the same business function) as the mentee. Peer mentoring offers the mentee someone who understands the grade specific challenges of managing this personal transition in a professional context.

What about costs? Usually in the mid-range of professional coaching. Costs also depend on the number of sessions provided. Internal mentoring is free to the individual.

Note there should be set up costs, associated with building a robust mentoring scheme and investing in appropriate mentor / mentee development.

At the outset of the programme, investment in designing an initial mentoring workshop will prepare a number of mentors, and then subsequent mentors may then be trained in house with no further external cost.

Expect to budget for design, and development costs up front, with perhaps days assigned for co-delivery of initial workshops with your internal ‘owner’ for mentoring.

Who is the target audience? Given budget constraints, external maternity coaching is typically limited to senior women, or in some instances, group coaching for more junior women. Open and inclusive to all subject to availability of mentors.

If more are needed, more mentors can be recruited and up-skilled to add to the pool of available mentors.

What they do? A blended approach using established tools and frameworks. Providers frequently offer a combination of 1-1 face to face coaching, some group workshops, on-line support, and webinars. The design of the programme will determine the approach taken. In practice, mentoring is a fluid relationship responding to different needs at different times.

Mentors use their own experiences and tools made available to them at their initial development workshops.

Most mentoring takes place on a 1-1 basis: Face to face conversations while the mentee is in work, moving to telephone or e-mentoring support while on maternity leave and then face to face on return to work.

Note it is possible to support the mentoring further by introducing other related activities – e.g. Family networks and line manager workshops.

Development in the role Development takes place outside the company. Good practice is to insist maternity coaches attend some form of induction into the company and its culture.

Training is not usually provided for coachees.

Training provided by the company for both mentors and mentees. Mentors can achieve accreditation via the EMCC European Individual Awards.
Some pros and cons of each approach Pros

·      Professional coaches

·      Independent view – free from business culture and politics

·      Able to share best practices and insights from a range of businesses and industries

·      Offer a broad approach informed by their experiences as coaches and parents



·      Both coach and client are ‘outside’ of the organisation at the same time

·      The external coach will not necessarily have an understanding of the culture and politics of the organisation

·      Costs.   The expense associated with external specialist coaching means in practice, it is more likely to be reserved for senior employees. It is likely the volume of maternity occurs at a lower level, so these employees may be missing out. Failure to invest where the volume is, may have consequences later for the pipeline of senior talent

·      Costs – there is an additional cost associated with each assignment.

·      External coaching is a one off for an individual, or perhaps a group. Further maternity leaves / groups will require further investment


·      Internal mentors are familiar with the culture and context

·      Emotional support from ‘inside’ the business – particularly where mentees feel they are on the ‘outside’ during maternity leave

·      Shared experiences – mentors bring their own learning (good and bad) of returning in this context

·      Builds capability of internal coaching/mentoring pool

·      Personal development and learning for mentors

·      Costs – the costs associated with an internal programme are up-front and associated with setting up. Thereafter, the costs are a matter of internal resource as opposed to external costs.

·      Returning mentees can become mentors post return. In this way a maternity mentoring scheme becomes sustainable and scalable, building for future needs.



·      Mentors are not (usually) professionally qualified

·      Mentoring takes place in addition to the day job, which can add complexity to a busy diary


Safety in practice Accredited external coaches should have regular supervision in place as part of their on-going professional development.

The EMCC Code of Ethics requires that all members have regular supervision.

Group supervision should be set up internally to for all mentors.   This is important for ensuring mentors are supported, continue to develop their mentoring skills and practice in an ethical manner.

Without breaching confidentiality, there may also be learning to share and collective themes the organisation may need to be aware of.

Return on Investment (ROI)

ROI measures are equally applicable across both approaches. The impact can be measured through:

·      Improved retention figures

·      Comparison study of new hires v returners. (Some studies suggest new hires fail to live up to expectations 60% of the time!)

·      Improved engagement scores of returning employees

·      Performance grades of returning employees

·      How are they tracking and the relative speed of getting back into expected level of performance

·      Longer term impact on gender diversity at senior levels


Reprinted with permission of the authors from Mentoring New Parents at Work, by Nicki Seignot and David Clutterbuck. 

© Nicki Seignot and David Clutterbuck.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this extract / précis from Mentoring New Parents at Work and are interested to read more, please follow the link to purchase a full copy here

© David Clutterbuck, 2016

Our free content is available to everyone. It includes a limited range of Blogs, Videos and Briefing Papers on key topics and the latest trends. If you want to expand your knowledge even further, or support your development or business with up-to-date information and research, sign up for a FREE TRIAL to gain access to the full content of over 500 blogs, briefing papers and videos within our resource library.

Membership with CCMI offer you will access to all the content within this resource of over 200 blogs, video briefings and more.