Why Recruiters Need to Understand the Helicopter Parent

Gen Y employees are difficult to recruit.  “Millenial” employees, as they’ve come to be known, have lots of demands from a potential employer.  But the expectations of potential Gen Y employees are not nearly as high as the expectations of their parents.  Their parents?  That’s right.  For the first time, employers aren’t recruiting just job candidates.  They’re also recruiting the parents of job candidates. 

No, I’m not kidding.  The parents of Gen Y’ers are often referred to as “helicopter parents.”  Why?  Because they’re always hovering around overhead.  They were hyper-involved in their childrens’ already over-extended activity schedules.  They raised Gen Y to believe that there was nothing they could not be, nothing they could not achieve.  (Thus explaining Gen Y’s perceived sense of entitlement–Why can’t I be the boss right away?  My mom said I can be anything I want to be!)  They coddled their Gen Y’ers and bought them new gadgets like cell phones and Blackberries, which, as an ancillary perk, enabled parent and child to remain in constant contact.  They treated their Gen Y offspring like adults, further deepening the one-way dependence that ran from child to parent.

And now, employers of America, they’re yours.  Now it’s up to you to treat them like the equals that they’re not, to pat them on the back for every seemingly unimportant accomplishment, and to give them the flexibility to work from home whenever the spirits move them crack open their third laptop of the year.

Which brings me to recruiting strategies.  For employers who haven’t already figured it out, Gen Y job applicants won’t make a move before getting the stamp of approval from Mom and Dad.  Not until the parents give the thumbs up will candidates accept a job offer.  So, when recruiting Gen Y, be sure to advertise your organization’s flexible and alternative work schedules, the company’s continued investment in its technology infrastructure, and the yearly allowance offered to new hires for purchases of Blackberries, laptops, and the like. But don’t forget to look out for what Mom and Dad will want to see before they’ll give the official seal of approval.

Helicopter parents want to make sure their Gen Y’ers will be secure for a long, long time (even though it’s fair to say the chances of a Gen Y staying at any firm for more than 3 years at a time is pretty slim).  They don’t want any chance that their pride and joy will be subject to a layoff during a reorganization.  But Helicopter Parents also want to be Helicopter Grandparents.  And in order to do that, the Gen Y employee needs to work for an employer with a healthy understanding of work-life balance.  After all, how else can the generation be expected to find a mate and produce offspring?  Work-family balance is as important to the parents of Gen Y employees as it is to Gen Y employees themselves.  The next time you are recruiting for a position that may be filled by a Gen Y candidate, don’t forget your marketing audience has grown and now includes the parent hovering overhead.