EY’s Career and Family Transitions initiative is an innovative coaching program that helps both moms- and dads-to-be with the critical transition to life as a working parent. The program provides support, resources, and coaching before, during, and after the birth or adoption of a child. Support is especially focused on the return to work—a challenge that nearly all new parents underestimate. Coaching consists of one-on-one sessions preparing participants to go on leave, as well as return to and succeed at work. The program also shares information with new parents via email, audio training sessions, and group webcasts.

“We saw opportunities to address some of the challenges our people face in returning to work after welcoming a new baby,” said Ellen Williams, a flexibility leader at EY. “We discovered we could have an impact at two significant transition points: Before expecting parents go on leave and upon their return to work. These are critical times for working parents, because many are wondering if they should stay with the organization or how they can transition back to work and be successful.”

The program helps new EY parents meet their personal and professional goals, while enabling the organization to attract, retain, and develop top talent in an ever more competitive business environment. Additionally, the Career and Family Transitions program allows EY to leverage its talented and experienced internal Executive Coaching team in new ways. Typically, executive coaches work with the organization’s highest-ranking leaders. Now, several coaches spend a majority of their time helping these working parents, offering mid-level professional participants a unique and meaningful benefit. “We knew the right kind of transitional support could be a game changer as far as keeping our talented new parents engaged and focused on their overall goals,” said Williams.

Initially launched in December 2012 as a pilot program targeting mid-level professionals, the program now includes about 400 new parents throughout the Americas—about a quarter of whom are dads. Moreover, the program has expanded to include high-ranking partners and principals.

The program’s coaches are based both inside and outside the US. “In different geographical regions, the challenges parents face and how their coaching and transition experiences play out are different,” says Williams. “We made changes to the content of the program to keep it culturally relevant. For example, in Canada, women are given a yearlong maternity leave; the challenges of returning to work a year later are different. In Mexico, the culture stresses the importance of making a new mom feel comfortable when returning to work.”

“Overall, we’re finding that our Career and Family Transitions program helps our new parents feel confident in returning to work after maternity and paternity leave,” says Williams. “Our professionals are able to have open and honest conversations with their managers, teams, and families about their personal and professional goals.”