Recently we had an opportunity to speak with Jennifer Liston-Smith, the Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons Work+Family Solutions about Parental Leave Toolkit
Please share with us the backstory of what motivated you to create this app.
It's a story of continuous development and disruption! We had pioneered the concept of maternity coaching or parent transition coaching for employers to empower working parents back in the early 2000s. So, as well as coaching in person, we already had online toolkits for professionals going through parental leave, and their managers, in different iterations by 2012 to 2015.
We wanted to make a step change then and have our online material act more like a coach: proactively reaching out, tied to your dates, with just the right tools, checklists, video tips and blog articles for your stage in the journey. When you're going through parental leave, there are some key things to address before, during and on return, at work – with your employer, colleagues and customers – and at home. We already had over a decade of knowing what to look out for. So why not create an algorithm to act as a kind of mentor, serving up tips and tools when most needed?
What features do you hope to roll out to your app in the future?
The team has been busy recently making sure all the content is relevant to the post-pandemic, more hybrid-working world. We're continually adding content anyway and adding more around new ways of working plus continually adding more features for our global clients are among the highlights on our dev timeline.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of the creation of this app?
Always the feedback of course! We really know we've made a difference when we hear again and again people saying things like this: 'Amazing toolkit! From both sides professional and personal. As a first time mum and not born here, the videos, checklists and information have been great.'
What is the coolest or most innovative feature of your app?
Can I have three? Of course the algorithm around dates, but I also love that the employer can make it unique to their own organisation. When we implement it, we ask what they'd like to signpost and showcase at different points. It can point to their policies, their internal networks, their wellbeing programmes and their childcare support. Because of the tailored timeline, it's pretty agile: it will invite the coachee to book a session with their personal coach at the right stage in their specific journey and it also invites them to a group coaching workshop within the business on a given date. I love how dynamic it is. And lastly, the interactive tools: having created these tools as static images (a triangle, or circles, or a matrix etc) it's still exciting seeing these come to life and be interactive on screen.
What surprised you most in your journey to create this app?
Of course how long it takes to map out a complex array of different possible journeys, allowing for different leave lengths around the world and figuring out the more – or less – essential info for an individual or manager depending how long they are going to be out on leave. It was iterative to say the least and I fondly remember the many creative and analytical hours needed for that!
Which other mobile apps or technology have inspired you?
We've done some events with Nudge, the global financial wellbeing platform. We came across them after we'd already been on our journey of creating prompts to action at different stages but we still thought their way of doing it was elegant too.
Do you have any recommendations or advice for others wanting to create a mobile app?
Critical friends are a big help – it's important to get live feedback about what works and what really wows people
How did you decide which platforms to release your app on and do you plan on releasing your app to other platforms?
As all our services are provided to employers, we started out with the toolkit being part of the portal we provide to employers, built in by our own dev team. When our employer clients wanted an App (and we did too) we knew we would release on iOS and Android simultaneously as it had to be inclusive of employees on the move and on leave, using a range of personal devices.
How is your app different than the rest of the market? Which unique need does it fill?
The exciting differentiator is the way the journey adapts to the dates of starting leave; then birth or adoption; and then return. There are parallel journeys for the parent and the manager. The pathways adapt in step if either party updates the plan (e.g. an earlier agreed return date). It's highly inclusive in terms of gender and type of leave, it has a great dashboard for HR teams to track not only engagement but also to see who's where on their journey in terms of dates. It's also the best of tech coupled with the best of coaches: our team has been leading in this space for well over 15 years and we're constantly innovating. We also shape the journey to the region so our global clients can be sure the journey fits their different geographies.
You can view Parental Leave Toolkit here
For more information, visit: https://solutions.brighthorizons.co.uk/our-solutions/parental-leave-toolkit