By Karen Kroll
A new service helps expectant and new moms on staff stay focused and on the job.
Katie Ockerman’s career at Fifth Third Bank began while was earning her accounting degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She’s since advanced to financial center manager in Edgewood, Kentucky. “Fifth Third has really helped coach and develop me,” says Ockerman, now mom to three little girls, adding that she’d like to continue her career with the bank.
That goal just became a little easier, with the launch of Fifth Third’s Maternity Concierge program earlier this year. The service has helped Ockerman schedule doctors’ appointments, plan her twins’ upcoming first birthday party, and find birthday and holiday gifts. “This helps me to be a better manager,” Ockerman says. “I can keep my mind at work when I know they can provide support on the family side.”
Ockerman says the concierge service, which is provided through Cincinnati-based Best Upon Request, responds to emails within an hour or so. The maternity program concierges also check in with her every few weeks. “They make sure whatever they’ve done has gone well and ask if I need any other assistance,” she says.
Making sure women succeed.
The impetus behind Fifth Third’s maternity concierge program was the bank’s “strong commitment to making sure women succeed,” said Teresa Tanner, chief administrative officer and the executive who spearheaded the initiative. This commitment is coupled with the recognition that many women struggle to balance work and family, especially when their children are young. The goal is to help keep women on the job, developing their skills, and advancing as high as their expertise and interests allow.
According to the bank, the rate of employees who typically leave the company within a year of taking maternity leave has been double that of all women. Moreover, the proportion of women in leadership roles lags that of Fifth Third’s overall workforce. While 60% of employees at Fifth Third are female, only 23% of executives and senior leaders are. About half of first- and middle managers are women.
The program is designed to help attract and retain women employees.
To that end, it’s available, free of charge, to all female employees throughout Fifth Third who are pregnant or have children up to a year old. Employees can access it as soon as they learn they’re pregnant. So far, more than 160 employees have taken advantage of it, Tanner said.
Employees have used the concierges to order breast pumps through their insurance companies, to assemble a checklist of items to take to the hospital when it’s time to deliver, and to outfit their nurseries. The maternity concierge service provides “an extra set of helping hands,” Tanner said. It’s particularly helpful for first-time mothers, who often must start from scratch when researching the myriad details that go into having a baby and raising a child.
A positive reception.
Response to the program has “been overwhelmingly positive,” Tanner said. Not only do employees who are eligible for the program appreciate the service, employees who had children before the program was implemented have commented on how useful this sort of service would have been.
Some fathers have inquired about the program. While they’re not eligible for this service, they can take advantage of Fifth Third’s general concierge program.
One key to the program’s success has been “making sure it’s proactive in nature,” Tanner said. As soon as an employee reaches out, the service will work with her and begin checking in with her. “It’s kind of a ‘push’ program, versus pull,” she added.
To date, Fifth Third’s investment in the Maternity Concierge program has topped six figures. That said, Tanner noted it’s difficult to pin down precise numbers, as the program has required an investment of both hard and soft resources. Moreover, the bank continues to expand the program.
It’s too early to tally hard dollar figures on the program’s impact on the promotion, retention, and recruiting of women employees. But the anecdotal information is positive. Women using the service have reported lower stress levels, Tanner said. “We hope to also see results in promotability. We want women to break through.”
Ockerman points out that the maternity concierge program has reinforced her desire to continue her career within Fifth Third. “The company having the program makes me feel supported,” she said. “It makes me want to work harder and develop.”
Other support for parents.
In a separate but related development, Fifth Third also recently announced a new parental bonding leave that will start later this year. This is in addition to short-term disability leave for birth mothers. The program will provide birth, adoptive, and foster parents four continuous, full-time weeks off at full pay, allowing them time to bond with their newest family members. “Both mothers and fathers will be encouraged to take advantage of the program,” Fifth Third said.
Karen M. Kroll is a business and financial services writer and content marketer based in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Email: [email protected].