geoff well round

Covering Maternity leave requires someone well rounded

Finding the right person to cover your job whilst you are away on maternity leave is a nice problem to have on a personal level, but on a business level it’s tricky; getting the balance right is important.

Whilst you are away you want the job doing well (you owe that to your employer), but not too well. You need to be able to come back to a role that is functioning almost as if you had not been away, but not so well that your return is seen as a backward step. It’s a tricky balance.

If the job is done well whilst you are away you take the credit for your prowess at selecting the right person. If it’s not done as well as you would have done it had you been there, your return is seen in a positive light, but if the fall off in performance is too great then that reflects badly: if the temp does things that are seen as innovative (why did we not do that before?) then that can make for difficulties when you return; expectations will have changed. In the months following your return you will be measured against your replacements performance; whether intentionally or not, you have set an expectation not of your making.

You want to be able to come back and immediately make an improvement so your team and your boss appreciate your value; recognise you are back and firing on all cylinders. ‘We missed you / we’re glad to have you back’, is what you need people to say but not, ‘Why did you hire that person as cover? They were not very good.’

If you manage a team you need someone who will lead them in the same way that you do now. They need to be happy whilst you are away, but not too happy. Most importantly, they need to be there to welcome you back. You don’t want your replacement to cause departures from the team.

Yes it’s a tricky balance. Of course your boss will see this differently. They’d like you to hire a ‘superstar’ but you want your job back when you return.

This is where hiring a person with experience of the maternity cover role is crucial.

Someone who is ‘a safe pair of hands’ is what you need. Someone who has their antenna tuned to these concerns. Someone who can fit in immediately, get up to speed very quickly, have the right experience to take the company forward, know where to introduce improvement but know where to draw the line; to evolve the role and improve the team but not disrupt it. They must be able to hand back a fully functioning department on your return. There should be some embryonic projects that you can bring to fruition and take the credit for; projects you would have introduced had you been there. Which means your cover also needs to have the right size of ego.

This is where mature candidates come into their own. They understand the balance that is required, bring lots of experience and the skills needed to ‘hit the ground running’ and do so at the right speed and facing in the right direction. You need someone with adaptable management styles to be able to fit in with the team. You need an evolutionist not a revolutionary. Darwin not Che Guevara.

Above all you need to be able to relax, switch off the work mobile, ignore the emails and concentrate on the important matter of the new arrival.

This is why I enjoy maternity cover jobs. They have this added dimension.

Now if I could figure out a way to line up maternity cover vacancies…

Geoff Round
Ground Up Marketing
Maternity cover specialist

0118 973 1064

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