Employers Are Embracing the Involvement of Parents to Attract and Hold On to Talent
By Anita Hofschneider
September 11, 2013
Paul From was used to meeting the spouses and children of employees at company events. As chief executive of Central Wire Industries, a manufacturing firm based in Perth, Ontario, he has long held regular baseball games to get to know his employees better.
But in the past five years, he has noticed his 20- and 30-something employees have started bringing new guests to company socials: Mom and Dad.
Millennials—people born between 1981 and the early 2000s—are much closer to their parents than previous generations, and they have gained a reputation for being coddled by so-called helicopter parents, say researchers who study Millennials. But when they started joining the workforce in the early 2000s, managers balked at parents getting involved in their kids’ workplace struggles or job searches.
That was then. Now, some firms have begun embracing parental involvement and using it to attract and hold onto talent and boost employee morale.
Nate Kruse, who works at Northwestern Mutual, shows his mother, Deb Kruse, some company applications.
One of them is Northwestern Mutual. Michael Van Grinsven, field-growth and development director at the Milwaukee-based financial firm, says the company does everything it can to accommodate the parents of college-aged interns, including regularly inviting them to the office for open houses.
“It’s become best practice,” Mr. Van Grinsven says, noting that parents can influence their children’s career decisions. Some Northwestern Mutual managers call or send notes to parents when interns achieve their sales goals and let parents come along to interviews and hear details of job offers. They may even visit parents at home.
Mr. Van Grinsven says the efforts have paid off: The number of interns meeting the company’s benchmark for success in sales has risen more than 40% since 2007, a productivity improvement that he attributes in part to more parental support.
In May, Google Inc. held its second annual “Take Your Parents to Work Day,” hosting more than 2,000 parents at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. Participation numbers showed that the event was valuable to employees, the company says.
It may be on the rise, but parental involvement in the U.S. doesn’t begin to match countries in Asia and South America, according to a 2013 study from the global accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
The study, which surveyed 44,000 people from more than 20 countries, found that just 6% of recent college graduates surveyed in the U.S. wanted their parents to receive a copy of their offer letters. That’s well below the global average of 13% and much less than some other countries, where it was as high as 30%. The study also found that just 2% of young employees in the U.S. want their parents to receive a copy of their performance review, compared with the global average of 8%.
Nate Kruse, a financial representative and college unit director at Northwestern Mutual, says that including his parents in the hiring process made them more supportive of his career choice. His mother, Deb Kruse from Hildreth, NE, says she met her son Nate’s intern coordinator at Northwestern Mutual when he stopped by her house to introduce himself in 2008.
Since then, she has attended several company events, including the company’s annual meeting for employees and their families. Once she attended an intern open house to answer questions from other parents.
“My parents were unsure at first,” Mr. Kruse says. “But seeing the office firsthand allowed them to be that much more confident with the company.”
PwC also hosts receptions for interns’ parents at some of its offices. And Enterprise Holdings Inc., a car-rental firm, provides information packets for the parents of interns and new employees in its management-training program and lets the parents listen in when managers describe job offers.
Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise, says that involving parents can help with the hiring process, but she acknowledges that “you don’t want to step over the line of over involving them.” The company expects that it will bring in more than 8,500 college graduates for its management training program in the coming year, many of whom are young people.
A 2012 survey of more than 500 college graduates by Adecco, a human-resources organization, found that 8% of them had a parent accompany them to a job interview, and 3% had the parent sit in on the interview.
Meanwhile, some high-profile tech companies are turning the traditional “Bring Your Daughter/Son to Work Day” holiday on its head in a bid to boost morale.
LinkedIn Inc. will host its first “Bring In Your Parents Day” in November at its offices in 14 countries, and it plans to roll out how-to guides for businesses hoping to host similar events. Following a successful pilot in Dublin, spokeswoman Danielle Restivo expects the event to boost employee morale. Plus, she says, employees who have their parents’ backing are happier workers.
Still, the attention paid to parents has put some employers in an awkward position. “This is a situation that’s odd and uncomfortable to say the least,” says Jaime Fall, a vice president of the HR Policy Association.
For example, HR executives have to follow privacy policies that prevent them from sharing information with parents. That can be a problem when a parent calls asking why their offspring didn’t get a job or wants to negotiate salary, Mr. Fall explains.
Parental involvement also isn’t for everyone. Lauren Bailey, a 22-year-old graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, says that if a company gave her a letter to take home to her parents, “I would almost feel like I was back in high school.”
Nor can she imagine taking her parents to an interview or a company recruiting event. “I’d be worried that they’d be speaking for me,” she says. “I know I’m young, but at some point I have to make my own decisions.”
As for Central Wire’s Mr. From, he says he is trying to keep an open mind. He worries that bringing parents to company events interferes with the social dynamic, but a bigger concern is whether the company will have enough fresh talent.
A version of this article appeared September 11, 2013, on page B6 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Hiring Millennials? Meet the Parents.