Employers Invite Helicopter Parents To The Office

FlickrAn company, above, welcomes parents to the office.
Take Your Son or Daughter to Work Day is old hat. But some companies, for example, Google, LinkedIn, Logitech, DeutscheBank, and Northwestern Mutual, have recently instituted Take Your Parents to Work Day. For example, at Google's second annual, more than 2,000 parents showed up. (If you were a parent awesome enough to have spawned a Googler, wouldn't you come?)

And Parent Day makes a whole lot of sense both for employers and employees.

It builds employee pride and loyalty. No matter how old we are, we want our parents proud of us, seeing us grown-up, accomplishing. At minimum, we'd like our parents to understand what we do, and according to a LinkedIn survey, 35 percent of parents don't.

Taking our parents to work, showing off what we and our organization do, will increase our motivation to stay with the company and maybe even to be more productive. Loyalty will likely be increased further simply because the employer was humane enough to create Take Your Parent to Work Day.

The employer gets free sophisticated management consultants. Parents know their kids better than even a sophisticated boss does. So they might offer suggestions in a way more likely to get their child to improve.

It's a recruiting tool. Parents impressed by that workplace will be more likely to want to work there and tout it to others. Having both parent and child working there boosts company loyalty. That's why universities give preference to alumni children -- to encourage bigger donations.

It's fun. Apart from bottom-line payoff, bringing your parents to work is fun for all. Enhancing people's pleasure should be a value in itself.

Downsides. No doubt, employee productivity shrinks during Take Your Parents to Work Day -- You're not cranking spreadsheets when showing mom and dad around. Also, there is the risk that the parent will unfairly criticize the child's job, work, or employer. It could even make some employees feel infantilized -- "I'm an adult. I don't need mommy or daddy there." But of course, Take a Parent to Work Day is voluntary, so those in the shun-parents stage could opt out.

The next level. Some companies have taken parent involvement to higher level. For example, at Northwestern Mutual Life, the focus is on interns. Some managers send notes to parents when interns achieve their sales goal. Other managers have visited the parent's house to introduce themselves to a intern's parents. Still others have invited parents to attend interviews and job offers.

The highest level. Here's what I believe would be the optimal use of parents, a potentially enormous free resource. The Annual Day would merely be the kick-off of an ongoing initiative. The Day would start with a video-centric presentation of what the company does -- three minutes by an executive and then one minute by a variety of people from clerk on up. The executive would close by inviting each employee to then show his or her parent what s/he does and, critically, to ask parents for input: what s/he likes plus suggestions. After lunch, everyone would reconvene in the large group and parents asked to offer praise and suggestions for the company. Those would be assembled into an article for the first issue of a monthly parent's e-newsletter. Each newsletter would also include articles and video on how to be a great parent of a Googler or whatever, plus on what's new and exciting in the company, and profiles of employees and their parents. Each newsletter would also poll parents on key issues as well as ask, open-ended for their kudos and suggestions. I believe that few initiatives could yield better return on investment while being a joy for all concerned.

Use parent power. The military, schools, and colleges have long recognized the value of involving parents. The military has many parent initiatives, and most schools and colleges have open houses and parent clubs to engender support, financial as well as human. It's time for more workplaces to recognize Parent Power. Should you show this article to your boss?

Next on my list of great workplace additions: pets. In my next post, I'll make the case for Bowser and Kitty being valued members of the workplace.
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