Managing Millennials: Maybe You SHOULD Get Their Parents Involved

It doesn’t take a mechanical engineer to understand why a stool needs at least three legs to fully support and balance even the slightest weight.

When trying to support and balance the challenging workplace relationship between your business and your young hires, consider the advantages of inviting their parents into the employment picture as the third leg of your stool.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that I’m limiting this strategy to only the moms and dads of teenage workers.

Millennials are getting married later, having children later, and increasingly living with their parents well into their 20s. Gone is the notion that adulthood officially started at 18,when one typically graduated from high school – or even at 21, the modern-day age limit for drinking alcohol. A recent University of Chicago survey found that most Americans now believe that adulthood actually begins at age 26.

Don’t blame it all on the kids

Over the past decade, the years from 18 to 25 have evolved into a strange, transitional Never-Never Land between adolescence and adulthood in which many young people stall for a few extra years in an effort to contemplate the next phase of life, or prepare for it. It’s not at all uncommon for a college grad to accept a nice-paying, full-time job with a company (a career position, so to speak) and then move back home with mom and dad for an undetermined period of time.

If you find this unsettling and want to assign blame, you may be tempted to heap it all on the shoulders of your young cohort.

Scores of them are coming out of college saddled with gargantuan student loans and feel the need to rely on someone else to take care of their basic needs while they struggle to get out of debt. Others just want to free up the cash it takes to support the entertainment-rich, techno gadget-filled, bling-bling lifestyles they’ve grown accustomed to.

But don’t put it all on the kid.

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Much of the reason for the delayed emancipation of our nation’s youth can be attributed to the rise of the helicopter parents; parents who hover over their adult children’s lives and refuse to let go. Some of these chopper-pilot moms and dads are obviously afraid of the old-age feeling of being empty nesters while others are simply trying to compensate for the lack of quality time spent with their children during their adolescence.

How to integrate parents into your strategy

Knowing this, it might be a good strategy for you to integrate parents as a supporting leg in your employment equation. Here’s how:

  1. Meet the Fockers. Be proactive and extend the welcome mat to the parents. Perhaps even invite them to new employee orientation. Let them meet you on your turf when you’re relaxed and prepared to tour them around and see your best side. Explain why you hired their son/daughter and what you ask from your young staffers. Tell them how you go about developing young talent and grow them with the attitudes, skills, and values that will prepare them for success in your organization and with any others.
  2. Pick up the phone within the first two weeks. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before you re-establish contact. Rather, make your first call home one to praise their kid. “Geez, Ms. Baker, Devon is sure a quick study! He’s learning the ropes much faster than most. I’m elated he’s on our team.” This will pay huge dividends should you ever need their support, and you likely will.
  3. Share the love. If you offer employee discounts or other non-compensatory perks, extend some of those to parents. Any costs associated with doing this will be more than offset by your savings in employee turnover whenever she approaches mom or dad for help in updating/circulating her resume.
  4. Don’t tattle. Regardless of how good your relationship with the parents is, never run to them with a problem without the consent of your employee. Although doing so might more easily resolve a short-term issue, it will shatter the trust between you and your young hire, and it will ultimately tarnish you in the eyes of the parent. Wait until the parent approaches you or until your new hire tells you they need to consult their parents for advice on an issue before suggesting that all of you converge for a pow-wow.

The bottom line: If your business employs teens and/or young adults, then this practice is an absolute no-brainer and you’re at a disadvantage if you’re not involving the parents.

With the research pointing to so many mid-to-upper 20-somethings still living at home and relying on mom and dad for advice and support, it makes sense to consider strengthening your employment stool by adding parents as the third leg.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com.

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester

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4 Comments on “Managing Millennials: Maybe You SHOULD Get Their Parents Involved

  1. I find the concept of involving the parents in the employment process extremely strange. In my world, once you graduate university (or even just high school), you’re capable of making career decisions on your own. As someone in their early 20s myself, I was more than ready to leave home after high school, get an education, and jump into the workforce. This applies to almost 90% of people I know in the same stage of life.

  2. This is absolutely ridiculous. Involving parents will not only hinder the ability of a new hire to establish a trusting psychological contract w/employer, but also reduce the likelihood of feeling self-actualized in any point in his/her career. You want high turnover and lazy employees, by all means get mom to pack their lunches and send home report cards.

  3. Eric, I do generational work. As a Gen Y cusper and business owner myself I’ve witnessed the increase in parental involvement over the past decade. That said, this is one of the stereotypes that often comes up in our training as one of the biggest points of contention. I’m all for adapting recruiting strategies and developing diverse, not one size fits all, approaches to hiring and engagement. However, where do we draw the line? Involving parents is the decision of the hire – regardless of age – however should not be an expectation that the employer must accommodate.

  4. Strong reaction to the article and I totally get it. I’ve written about the challenges of meddling helicopter parents many times and those drew strong oppositional comments as well. This ‘if you can’t beat them – join them’ view examines the pro-parent involvement argument from the employer’s perspective. Look, if parents are going to be coaching their kid through the early stages of their career (and most are) it may work to the employer/manager’s advantage to make a strong first impression and have a chance of gaining parents as a valuable ally rather than be portrayed as a heartless villain who has no interest in developing a long term, mutually beneficial employment relationship. Not meant as a ‘works every time for every situation’ situation. Just something to consider. I appreciate the feedback, folks.

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