If you’ve hung around the Mindful Return blog, you know I’m a huge advocate for starting parent affinity groups at our workplaces. (My tips on doing this are here: 5 Lessons for Launching a Successful (Gender Neutral) Working Parent Group at Your Office.)
I’ve had the honor of being the founder or co-founder of two of these groups – at my prior and current employer. And these communities have proven to be truly amazing support networks for me. They’ve provided everything from resources, to friendships, to business development opportunities.
So, if you don’t have one: start one!
But what to do AFTER you decide to form one?
How to launch the group with a bang? How to plan activities that engage your employees?
On July 24, 2018, Unilever, the consumer packaged goods company that makes everything from Dove soap to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, offered up an all-star example of how to get a parent affinity group off the ground.
First, they had the brilliant idea to choose National Parent’s Day as an anchor for their celebration. Then, they planned a full day of events to get everyone excited and active in the new group.
What Was the Day’s Lineup?
Kamillah Knight, Associate Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Unilever, coordinated the lineup of the day’s activities.
In the morning, the Baby Dove brand sponsored a panel that I led with Jeremy Smith (of the Mindful Return Working Dad Course). During the panel discussion, we focused on the transition back to work after having a baby.
Jeremy and I joined two Unilever employees, Kara Benton-Smith and Aaron Kinglsey, to discuss practical strategies around mindset, logistics, leadership, and building community in parenthood. Kara did an excellent job reminding us of the importance of staying connected to our old (sometimes non-parent) friends. Why? These individuals help us stay in touch with our identities as we enter new parenthood. (And they can remind us to take a shower and eat!) Aaron sold the group on just how helpful it can be to list out all tasks (old and new) and expressly divvy them up between ourselves and our partners.
Kamillah surprised several audience members with a copy of Back to Work After Baby, too!
The next event was a fireside chat on navigating school admissions and success, and at 4pm, there was a “Meet the Parents Happy Hour.”
Throughout the day, a “fair” of sorts was taking place in a main company common space. There, the Dove Men + Care brand was not only giving away body wash but was signing up dads to be new parent mentors to one another. Bright Horizons had a table about the company’s back-up care options. And parents could get a free, personalized Baby Dove bottle for their little ones. (My boys now use theirs every night!)
As an invited speaker for the event, I was an outsider, peering into the company for a day. I was witnessing just a snapshot of how Unilever feels about its parent employees.
Through that window, what the event said to me was: YES, we stand up for our parent employees. We’re willing both to provide support to them AND to celebrate their accomplishments. New parents are worth investing in at our company. And we want them to stick around and feel welcome here.
That was an incredible message to walk away with.
“In honor of the launch of Unilever’s new parent business resource group, United Parents, our team engaged Lori Mihalich-Levin and Jeremy Smith of Mindful Return to lead a panel discussion at our National Parent’s Day Celebration. Lori and Jeremy brought energy, enthusiasm, poise, and expertise to their presentation, and skillfully wove in relevant commentary from our own parent employee panelists. Audience members were clearly engaged in the discussion – taking photos of the Mindful Return slides and notes on how to implement helpful strategies into their routines! I would highly recommend Lori and Jeremy to any company looking to offer practical advice and inspiration on how to be both a parent and a leader in the workplace.”
- Michelle C, Senior Global Brand Manager, Unilever
Looking for speakers and facilitators at your company’s parent group events? Jeremy and I love leading these types of sessions and would be happy to discuss our availability with you. Simply complete the form on the Mindful Return speaking page, and we’ll find a time to talk.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.