All of us know about Take Your Child to Work Day, but LinkedIn has invited parents to see what their kids do at work this Thursday, November 7. Google had 2,000 parents attend last February. Why have these and other more traditional companies, like Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual, started to invite parents? Because they noticed that some younger employees who didn't have children or a significant other invited their parents to company picnics. Additionally, other cultures see taking parents to work as a way to honor them. In India, for example, taking parents to work events is common. Companies see a financial payoff as well. They hope that if parents support their children's work choices, then their children -- the Millennials -- are more likely to stay with the company.
Even though Take Your Parents to Work Day events have been a hit at these pioneering organizations, they are ridiculed online and in the press for being another way organizations pander to "helicopter parents" who can't let their kids grow up.
So should you go or will that make you look like the emotionally stunted "helicopter parent"? Or if you are the employee, should you ask your parents or will that make you look like you need to grow up?
I think there are three great reasons why parents should go and their children should ask them:
1. If they host a Take Your Parents to Work Day, your child's organization understands the difference between "helicopter parents" -- who drive us all crazy -- and the involved parents who showed up at every school open house or soccer game. I'll write more about why organizations need to learn the difference between helicopter and what I call involved parents in my next post. Unless you act like a helicopter parent while you are there, your child's employer won't think you are "one of them."
2. You want to see their desk. When we've seen a person's space and met the people they work with, we understand them better. Instagram has exploded because we want more than words, we want to see what's going on in someone's life -- and they want to show us. Plus, in high-tech fields, parents don't always understand what their children actually do from their titles or job descriptions. Now you get to see firsthand.
3. Smart organizations know parents are more involved in their younger employees' lives than parents of the past. That's why they are reaching out to them proactively. Historically, organizations knew they needed to involve spouses and significant others. But as people marry later, for many employees, parents have taken their place as the key people to "win over." They know that unless the parents like the organization, they can't recruit or retain top Millennial talent. Twenty-five percent of Millennials ask their parents for advice before taking a job. So employers want you there because they want you to see for yourself why they are a great place for your child.
For the past ten years I've advised organizations to involve parents, and Take Your Parents to Work Day events are a great way to do that. In fact, without realizing it, last week I created my own.
I'm giving a speech in Cincinnati in two weeks and the round trip flight from Chicago was almost $1,000. Driving would save my client over half that, but it's a 700-mile round trip, and I hate driving long distances alone. So I called my 80-year-old dad and asked if he wanted to do a road trip. His first response was, "Will I get to hear your presentation?" My mother has heard my generational speech a couple times, but my dad has always been out of town when I've been working close by. I'm 50 and my dad wanted to know if it could be a Take Your Parents to Work Day. Guess you never get too old to want to see your kid at work or hang out with your parents.
So when people think take your parents to work days are weird, I wonder, why have people told me at 50 I'm a good son for taking my dad to work, but think a 25-year-old can't cut the "apron strings" if they bring theirs?