A few weeks into my first maternity leave, a former colleague and friend called to check in on me and my infant son, Jay. It had been a rough birth physically and happened in Manhattan, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which added to the stress. I welcomed her call, thankful to hear her familiar voice.

“How are you doing?” she asked me gently, as we swapped new mom stories and made plans to meet up soon. “Is everything okay job-wise? Are you still planning to return to work?”

“Oh yes,” I replied quickly, changing my son’s diaper as we spoke. “Why wouldn’t I?”

She was silent for a moment, then said, “A recruiter called me about your job, and it’s also posted online, so I thought you weren’t coming back. I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you that.”

I don’t remember what I said next. I don’t remember how the call ended. I do remember that my head was spinning. I finished feeding my son and put him down for a nap.

Why would my job be posted online when I was going back? Why were they looking to backfill me when I was on maternity leave? Why hadn’t anyone told me?

I thought back to the period before I’d taken leave. When the doctor advised me to stop traveling to customer meetings in my third trimester, my bosses weren’t happy. When I stayed at the office until 11 pm to work on urgent requests at seven months pregnant, no one ever suggested that I order dinner. (I recall finding old airline crackers in my bag.) When I wrapped up things a few days before my due date, management assured me that I would come back to my role. But now I didn’t trust them. I resigned towards the end of my maternity leave after finding another opportunity.

The lesson I drew from this was simple. Maternity leave is one thing. Support for new mothers is an entirely different issue.

Asha Santos, a partner at Littler Mendelson P.C., who advises U.S. companies on employment law and how to build respect in the workplace, agrees: “How a woman is treated in the months leading up to her maternity leave and then during leave and shortly thereafter when she returns to work will determine whether or not a company will be able to retain her,” she explains.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM),  60% of organizations offered 12 weeks of maternity leave and 33% offered longer leaves. Some organizations are also making policies more inclusive:  Spotify, Etsy, Twitter, and more offer paid parental leave for both birth and non-birth parents to step in and fill the void in countries like the U.S. where no mandated paid parental leave exists.

But paid time off is not enough. Organizations need to create a broader ecosystem to support them. Here are five questions to focus on as we look to retain, develop, and promote new parents, especially mothers:

Who will take on her work?

I have been on maternity leave twice. I have also had a number of bosses, team members, and peers take leave.  When there’s no clear plan for transitioning responsibilities or one that simply throws work onto employees and colleagues, it creates a great deal of anxiety. A new mom might feel like she is burdening her team, while her peers become resentful.

One solution is to create a pool of former employees who know your organization well and could consult for a few months to cover the work, or partner with an organization like The Second Shift, founded by Gina Hadley and Jenny Galluzzo, which has created a marketplace to match companies with female experts who can help on certain projects or cover leaves. This is how my second maternity leave was handled: My boss hired a former employee as a consultant to cover my work for the five months I was out.

If you can’t bring in a consultant and need current team members to help, ensure they are compensated with a cash bonus or an increase in base salary. If they don’t have the bandwidth, consider tapping other people in the organization to help and reward them.

How will you assess her performance?

I once received a poor performance review after I’d just come back from maternity leave. I’d previously been told that I’d met my deliverables and was leaving the team in strong shape, and the rationale for the new rating was vague: “The business is now in decline.”

Don’t operate this way. Instead, sit down with people before they take leave and give them detailed feedback on their performance year-to-date versus their goals. If necessary, explain how the leave will affect any merit or bonus pay. If a formal review would have taken place while they’re out, promise another formal review when they return.  Some might want to have this conversation during their leave.

If you are forced to rank team members on a “bell curve,” evaluate those on maternity leave based on their performance before it. If you find that new parents are falling to the lower end of the curve, your organization needs to have an open and honest dialogue about the biases you’re bringing to the table.

What are her career aspirations?

When I once raised my hand for a role that would require significant travel, a former boss said to me: “Your kids are too young. You don’t want to be on the road and away from them that much.” I wasn’t given the option to apply; the decision was made for me.

Don’t assume that new mothers want to be on the “mommy track.” Instead, continue to ask about and understand her career aspirations, checking in as you would with any employee on how they want to grow in the organization. Come into those conversations with an open mind and listen carefully.

If you hear that her ambitions are unchanged, ensure she is guaranteed her same role when she returns and included in succession planning for key roles. Give her clear guidance on what it takes to get that next assignment or promotion and ask her if she would like to be contacted during her leave about upcoming opportunities or not.

What other policies do you have to support new mothers?

Companies need a robust suite of policies to make motherhood work for new working mothers.  According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 81% of companies offer new mothers ramping back to work options after they return from leave.

While some women will want options to help them ramp back to full-time work, others will want to explore alternative options. Offer a suite of possibilities including flexible working, part-time, or job-sharing opportunities for all individuals.

Ensure that all your offices have a mother’s room, where women can pump comfortably and privately.  Consider installing a hospital-grade pump so she can bring just her pump parts instead of her machine in. Design rooms to include comfortable seating, a fridge, a sink, and a microwave.  Allowing women who travel for work the benefit of shipping their breast milk home can be a game-changer.

Back-up child care is another key offering, which many companies have added during the pandemic.  Finally, tech companies including Facebook, Google, and Salesforce, have also started to offer additional paid time off for caregivers.

How will you know if you are successful?

What gets measured gets done. How do you know if you are retaining mothers? Track how much return from leave (and don’t assume it’s because they don’t want to work anymore). Measure how long they stay out after their first child and any subsequent children. Patagonia is a great example of a company that focuses on this data and has strong retention. It supports working mothers with policies such as onsite child care and an organizational culture that embraces rather than ignores employees’ families.

Ask your new working parents what more they want. Host roundtables and listening tours to ensure you are meeting their needs. Crowdsource ideas and co-create solutions to be a better place to work for employees with young children.

Senior leaders have to commit to creating an infrastructure that supports new parents, and particularly mothers, beyond paid leave. Once you do, these employees will feel that they can build a long-term career — and their families — at your organization.