Getting the Helicopter Parents on Your Side

Generation Y has changed the way we recruit and retain but most of all they are rapidly changing the way we think about the workplace. I remember the first time I heard about a parent who called a recruiter to discuss her daughter’s salary as a Registered Nurse at a large teaching and research facility. I couldn’t stop my mouth from falling open. It’s closed now.

Generation Y, born roughly between 1978 and 2000, are a bigger group than the Baby Boomers (80 million vs. 78 million) and just like the Boomers they are changing everything. We recruit differently—can you say Facebook, MySpace and Mobile Phone Advertising—but we are also retaining differently.

Generation Y is the pride and joy of their parents and grandparents who remain closely connected even as their children head off to the workplace. And while, it is hard wired into the brains of Baby Boomers, and even Generation Xers, to believe they shouldn’t take Gen Y Susie as well as her parents into the workplace, they need to give it some consideration.

Jessica Burchett, HR Manager for Casa Colina Hospital in Pomona, California heard me speak about some work we had done for a non-healthcare client who was concerned about losing so many Generation Y employees after the first year. We eventually did extensive research about who were the biggest influencers for these new employees and where did they get the notion it was OK to walk away from an exceptional career opportunity. Jessica asked if I could provide the details of what, based on this research, was now being done to convince the Generation Ys to stay put and focused within healthcare.

Surprisingly, it was not getting Susie to let go of her Helicopter Parents, but rather to get the hovering parents on our side. The research showed us that the parents were understandably invested in these children who had been the recipient of so much attention—from private schools, all types of lessons and Disney vacations to trophies simply for participation. But what we had not considered was that the parents, who turned out to be the biggest influencers of all, were only getting one side of the story when it came to Susie’s job.

Having been told all their lives they were “special” and “gifted”, the Susies of this workforce felt entitled to so much more than they perceived they were getting on the job. Consequently they felt, as a special gifted person, they shouldn’t have to continue in this unbearable work environment. So just quitting was acceptable.

What the parents were not being told was what the workplace had to offer to what we’ll now refer to as Special Susie. They did not know about the educational advantages being offered from on the job experience as well as tuition reimbursement. They did not know why third shifts were the purvey of all the Special Susies or what promotional opportunities lay ahead. They did not know about the benefits and the inspiration of making a difference in people’s lives. Once they knew, the answer to Special Susie’s woes was not “you can live in the basement” but rather “you are so lucky to have that exceptional job and opportunity, don’t do anything to mess it up.”

Healthcare delivery systems nationally are now inviting the Helicopter Parents in for a special “Influencers Boot Camp” so the employer can spread the truth about what they are offering Special Susie. The Boot Camp generally is a day where parents—or another main influencer such as a spouse—can see exactly what Special Susie is doing on the job, what the benefits are and why the opportunity is unique and worthy. The Boot Camp includes tours to see the equipment being utilized, greetings from senior leadership and managers, videos about the mission and vision, benefits books and a nice meal where discussion and information is exchanged.

Some facilities have seen as much as a 31% increase in retention for new employees after the Influencers Boot Camp had been introduced. And now that we are seeing, on average, 47.6% of new graduates leaving before hitting their first year anniversary, this results in real savings.

This concept really works not simply because Generation Y is the most coddled group ever, but also because they are a generation of contradictions. They may be a group of “it’s all about me” workers, but they are also very civic-minded and philanthropic. –Perfect for healthcare delivery. Getting the parents on the side of the employer, through understanding and education, makes it easier for this group to stay on the job and fully engaged.

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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