"Parent-Approved" Companies

A lot of Gen Y experts out there are telling companies to suck up to Gen Y's parents. Here's an excerpt from a blog posting, for example, by Tammy Erickson in connection with her book ("Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving At Work") put out by Harvard Business Publishing (meaning, she's obviously no slouch):

  • Distribute packs of information for parents to students at universities and job fairs
  • Hold a career fair in your community designed specifically for parents
  • Create special FAQ material directed at parents' likely questions and concerns (retirement, health benefits, 401(k) plans, educational opportunities and so on
  • Hold parent orientation sessions or conference calls
  • Invite parents of interns and new hires to visit the Y's place of work and meet the boss and colleagues
  • Provide the staffing necessary to follow through with parent requests
  • Run ads communicating your positive attributes as an employer aimed at parents
  • Provide incentives for parents to refer their children (beginning with your current employees - if your current employees won't refer their own children, consider whether you really are a good employer)
  • Include parents in employee benefits

Do you have a parent-approved brand?

I can see the short-term benefit of this kind of recruiting strategy. Very short-term. However, I wonder what kind of people you end up with when you use that kind of selection mechanism. Maybe the same subset of Gen Yers employers complain about all the time: the ones who don't show up on time, can't follow directions, can't make even simple decisions on their own, can't behave like grown-ups. I would posit that there's a connection between that kind of recruiting and that kind of employee.

So maybe you get entry-level bodies in the door that way. But what's that going to look like longer term? When you're trying to groom young employees to rise up through the management funnel? How do you make grown-ups, let alone leaders, out of people whom you selected for their dependent, child-like qualities?

I give Gen Y's parents a really hard time about infantilizing their grown children, and now companies are being encouraged to do the same thing. I have to think that's not a good outcome for those companies as a business matter, and it's downright toxic for Gen Y.

And for those whose immediate response is, "That's what Gen Y is like, there's no way around it," I say: You're not looking hard enough. You have to recruit more wisely than this, because with some of these recruiting strategies, you are inviting longer-term headaches.

Please weigh in. Am I wrong? And Gen Yers: do you want to be treated this way? Do you think that's a good thing?

(Here's my memo to employers; my memo to helicopter parents; and my memo to Gen Y. And here's a sample HR Director's lament.)