Wasn't it enough when parents were calling college admissions counselors and coming along to make sure their kids signed up for the right college classes? Well in the New World Work Order, the parents of Millennial workers apparently are factors that cannot be ignored. In fact, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi told Fortune Magazine that sometimes she actually writes notes to her direct reports’ parents thanking them for “the gift” of their children. And let's not forget Google, with its "Bring Your Parents To Work Day" -- a practice adopted last November on LinkedIn with 28 companies in 14 countries participating.
Is this just helicopter parenting run amok? Or is it part of the care and feeding of Millennials in the new work place? Apparently it's a little of both, experts say. Here is what experts say it all means and why bosses who want to be successful can't ignore Millennials' parents:
1. Millennials are close with their parents, and those parents hear everything that goes on in the office and provide counsel.
Sixty-percent of college-age Millennials say they talk with their parents at least once a day and 25 percent talk at least once or twice a week, according to the 2012 Millennial Values Study, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University. Chip Espinoza, author of "Managing the Millennials" and academic director of the organizational psychology program at
Concordia University in Irvine, Calif, says "Millennials grew up participating in decision-making with their parents. This is just a natural evolution of that relationship." And recruiters have paid attention to this relationship.
Espinoza notes that way back in 2006, Enterprise Rental Car began inviting the parents of their college recruits into the hiring negotiation. Espinoza says they send job offer information to the parents of prospective employees and even allow them to be on the phone with their children when job offers are discussed. "It made business sense. They were not closing the deal with as many hires as they thought they should be and they figured out that they had to sell the parents too," he said. The Enterprise Rental strategy worked.
2. "Love me, love my mother" doesn't always fly -- but sometimes it seriously has wings.
PepsiCo's CEO Nooyi has called up the parents of potential hires asking them to convince their children to accept a job with PepsiCo. Nooyi told Fortune how she called the mother of a high-level job candidate asking her to tell her son why he should take the PepsiCo offer. The young man had a competing offer but when he learned that the CEO had called his mom, he took the job with PepsiCo.
That's a high-profile example, but likely not a typical one, says Bruce Tulgan, CEO of RainmakerThinking.com, a leader in research on management and the workplace. Tulgan, author of "Not Everyone Gets A Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y," relates the story about the mother of a junior fire fighter who called the fire chief to complain that her son was working too many overnights and was just "walking around exhausted." The chief replied, "Ma'am, he's a fireman. That's when we work."
Behaviors like that mom's only serve to undermine the adult children, said Tulgan. "Nineteen is not the new 12 and 30 is not the new 20," Tulgan said. In other words, once your adult child has hit the age of majority, it's time to let him fend for himself in the workplace.
3. This is a sociological change, so employers need to adjust to it instead of fighting it.
Many Boomers weren't close to their parents and decided to raise their own children differently. "They seek to have a friendship with their kids," said Espinoza. "Millennials have grown up with the expectation they will be heard and they will make a difference. However, part of their confidence is based on the synergism they have with their parents," Espinoza said. And that's the reality that bosses must contend with.
When an adult child tells her parents about an office conflict where the boss sided with someone else, she knows they will validate her feelings. And think about it. Who better to consult with than your parents who not only have the workplace experience, but your best interests at heart? What other adult can be as effective a mentor?
4. The workforce has already forced changes in corporations, so nothing should surprise us going forward.
Many of us remember a time when you left your personal problems at home and wouldn't dream of bringing them to work with you. But that changed when companies realized that healthy, happy employees meant greater productivity. So we saw the emergence of Human Resource departments and Employee Assistance Programs offering mental health services, childcare, and workout facilities.
5. Jobs must provide more than just paychecks.
There was a day when a paycheck was enough to motivate someone to go to work. Nowadays, we want work to give our lives meaning and we like the empowerment of having a voice in how the job gets done. Drones are things that will deliver packages; they aren't us. And if Millennials want their parents in the equation, that's where they are going to be.
Millennials have demanded to be treated differently than previous generations in almost all aspects of their work lives. We call the office a "campus" because we want the job to be fun. Offices have razor scooters that can be checked out at lunch and free snacks all day long. The dress code has been so relaxed that the old casual Fridays now look like dress-up days.
6. Boomers are retiring and companies want to lure and keep younger workers.
The Baby Boomers are vacating all levels of the workplace and Espinoza sees a real battle brewing for replacement workers in not just the private sector, but at all levels of federal, state and local government. "Organizations that understand the values of Millennials are going to win," he said. One of the things Millennials want is Mom and Dad standing in the wings offering advice.
7. Bosses can do this without becoming babysitters.
Those Bring Your Parents To Work Days are more than just a gimmick. They are a recognition that Millennials have a certain perspective on their careers and their parents have a role in them. These events also impress Mom and Dad, not unlike the old Back To School Nights. Companies want to encourage parents to understand their kids' work and be proud of their accomplishments.
But the line needs to be drawn. Most management experts say reaching out to a Millennial's parents about day-to-day job-related things on a regular basis is a seriously bad idea. Some exceptions, says Tulgan, might be if the Millennial was hired to work at the same company as the parent and/or if the boss and the parent have a long-time relationship, perhaps even one that extends outside the office.
But for the great majority, just don't go there, says Cam Marston, president of Generational Insights. "What parent is ever level-headed about their kids?" he asks.
"Remember, this is the generation that repeatedly took the side of their child over the expertise and experience of the teacher, the coach, or the authorities," said Marston. Calling Mom and Dad opens the Pandora's Box for them to call you, too.
But ultimately, says Marston, it comes down to this: "It's time for the Millennial to be on her own and keeping the parents involved is doing nothing but delaying the inevitable - self reliance and accepting consequences for their own behavior. Enough of the protection, the kid gloves, and the coddling. Be a transitional leader in their life and assist them in transforming into an adult. They can't cut their ties to home if you won't."