Would you be brave enough to bring your parents to work?

Posted: December 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

Since 2012 corporations including LinkedIn, Google and ad agency Mother have been encouraging their staff to “bring in your parents” with the hashtag #BIYP. The event is growing as more and more employees reverse the pattern of schemes like ‘take your daughter to work’ and instead show their mums and dads what they do all day.

Parents are naturally proud that their offspring have jobs in such high profile companies as Google but often don’t understand what it is that they do all day. When asked, many parents are stumped. Reports by LinkedIn have found that more than a third of parents aren’t sure what their kids, who they put through school and university, actually do while at work. (I wonder how many of those are also among the 50% who say they could be of benefit if they understood what they did. I can picture my mum now: “I don’t know what it is that you’re doing, but I know I could do it better!”)

Bringing parents in for a day has a number of different benefits for your company. It enhances cohesion as employees scuttle away into a corner to hide from parents while they share embarrassing anecdotes with one another in front of the marketing assistant that you’ve been crushing on for the past 4 months. There’s nothing like adversity to bring people together and if anybody knows all the worst secrets about you, it’s going to be your wrinklies.

In fact Bring In Your Parents days do offer a good deal of ROI. Giving people the opportunity to talk about their jobs in tones that would insult the intelligence of a bright six year-old means that interdepartmental awareness is increased, therefore improving communication channels and breaking down barriers to innovation. People work for years a few desks away from others without knowing exactly what it is that they do. The opportunity to explain to outsiders with little grasp of what it takes to run a forward thrusting 21st century company means that colleagues with a vague idea of other people’s functions, skills and responsibilities learn exactly who does what.

Alongside increased cohesion and communication, another thing #BIYP is good for is to generate free publicity. This week my local paper covered a story of a minor celebrity from the 90’s apologising when his kid’s balloon burst in M&S, giving some people a fright. If it’s a slow news day you’ll probably make the front page.

You don’t need to be a big name on children’s TV to accrue column inches provided you do something out of the ordinary that fosters engagement with your company, especially if you can tie it in with a hashtag that has its own special day.

“Companies are now realizing that it’s really hard to maintain loyalty and retention, and one of the things that they found is that millennials listen to their parents,” Lindsey Pollak, who has written several best-selling books about millennials in the workplace.

Kids listen, and do as they’re told too. So a nagging parent telling them not to jump ship when they want to pursue a career as a levitating street performer really does have a genuine effect of staff retention. Make the parents realise the importance of staying in place and you’ll keep staff longer. Because, let’s not forget, parents have a vested interest in the career their kids choose. You’re not going to be able to afford a top-end care home if your entire career has been ricocheting from job to job, are you?

You might be worried about how you’re going to cope with having your parents sitting beside you for eight hours. I couldn’t even get through a Christmas Dinner without a fight these days so I shudder to imagine what a work-day of inquisition, criticism and passive aggression would look like. LinkedIn tried a half day to start with in their Dublin office. Giving staff a chance to get their things done and then a few Guinness under their belts before the real work of keeping their parents in check began. There was a presentation, Q&A and a tour of the building and an end-of-day cocktail reception, so all in all they got off pretty lightly.

Parents can be intimidating for other people too. They’ve had a lifetime of telling people off and getting what they want through trickery, coercion and threats. Imagine being the manager of a disgruntled employee whose dad is staring you down. The conclusion of such a scenario could only be redolent of Fight Club meets playground taunts of ‘my dad can beat up your dad’ made horribly real in the multistory.

I’m making it seem a lot worse than it is in fact. In reality many people find BIYP days to be fun and rewarding. Proud parents gain a better understanding of what their kids have chosen to do as a career, see them respected in the workplace and find themselves able to offer insight that they have gleaned from their years of experience that they may not otherwise have shared, not fully appreciating until they get to know the job that, although separated by years, sector and industry, people are people and work’s work.

“My team was talking about how their parents have had wonderful careers and they have wonderful advice to give but they don’t always know what we do,” explained Danielle Restivo of LinkedIn. She went on to describe an email her mother had sent asking her to summarise her job in a easy to understand paragraph that she could use when she had to explain what Danielle did. Considering many jobs that Londoners do today wouldn’t even have existed five or ten years ago, and the process involved in more traditional roles has changed beyond recognition, most of our parents could probably use an aide de memoire whether it was to read to their friends or just to keep for themselves.

As the population ages and the generation gap shrinks, younger people are more likely to do things with their parents. That can be social activities, entertainment or career based. It may surprise you to learn that Adecco in the US found that 8% of interview attendees got a parent to go with them to the interview and 3% of actual, real people took a parent with them to the subsequent job try-out. Perhaps helicopter parenting really has gone too far in the case of these individuals but for the rest of us, people who are socialised to an adequate level and no Oedipus complex

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