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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Go for the Parents

Published November 10, 2008 9:57 AM by Glen McDaniel

Much has been written about Generation Y or millenials and how different their work ethic is from that of older workers. Gen Y'ers, individuals born between 1980 and 2000, are now entering the workforce, and hiring managers are finding it difficult to attract, motivate and retain such workers even as the current workforce ages and dwindles by attrition.

Described as well educated, technologically-savvy, talented, idealistic and optimistic, these workers do not believe in selling their souls to any one employer. They will eschew rigid schedules for a life-work balance any day, and think employers need to value the employee's interests and needs as much as the employees value the employer's.

Typically Gen Y'ers will work long hours days on end if they have a goal in mind, but will demand to have their weekend off to go to a concert with friends, for example. In their view, both work and play are important and there should be no need to sacrifice one totally for the other. A friend of mine explained that boomers were very concerned with equal rights, equitable treatment and high self-esteem, hence the mantra: "I am OK, you are OK." Millenials, he joked, would more likely say, "You are OK, I am perfect!"

One reason for the difference in values and world view of millenials is they were raised by boomers and Gen X'ers who doted on them and crafted their lives carefully with lots of involvement and oversight from kindergarten through college. Consequently, even adult millenials will often consult parents before making important decisions.

Writer Tammy Erickson, who has done research on Gen Y'ers, suggests one way of getting to Gen Y'ers is by appealing to their parents. She points out many companies and even the U.S. Army are attempting to woo Gen Y'ers by appealing to their parents.

Among Erickson's suggestion are the following strategies:

  • distribute packs of information for parents to students at universities and job fairs;
  • hold a career fair in your community designed specifically for parents;
  • create special FAQ material directed at parents' likely questions and concerns (retirement, health benefits, 401(k) plans, educational opportunities and so on);
  • hold parent orientation sessions or conference calls;
  • invite parents of interns and new hires to visit the Y's place of work and meet the boss and colleagues;
  • provide the staffing necessary to follow through with parent requests;
  • run ads communicating your positive attributes as an employer aimed at parents;
  • provide incentives for parents to refer their children (beginning with your current employees--if your current employees won't refer their own children, consider whether you really are a good employer); and
  • include parents in employee benefits.



posted by Glen McDaniel


Wow!  Targeting parents is food for thought but not very easy for me to digest.  Sure the armed forces need to recruit. Trying to convince skeptical parents that it’s OK for their young adults to join the armed forces is one thing.   But to think that, in general, parents have that much sway over their children’s lives, or more specifically, their career choices is hard for me to believe.  I will have to check out Erickson’s research to be convinced.

I have two college aged daughters whom we have raised to be independent-thinking citizens of the world.  They try, as much as possible, to navigate life away from home on their own.  They often get the impression that they are not taken seriously as young adults.  

Sure, they lack the life experience to get every negotiation or inquiry right the first time around.  Sometimes they don’t even know what questions to ask.  They don’t always understand “the system”.  They are befuddled by rules and regulations that don’t make sense to them.

I think that all of us who deal with young adults have a responsibility to help them navigate the adult world.  They may sound confused, defensive and even demanding at times.  This just shows their lack of life-experience.  Can you think of some situations in your own young adult life that were learning experiences for you?  I certainly can.  Looking back, I wish I had behaved differently in many of these situations, but I was doing the best with the information that I had.  

Parents who hold too much sway over their children need to back off and let their “children” become independent, offering advice when asked, but mostly remaining watchfully in the background.  Encouraging this kind of behavior from parents or their children is counterproductive.

Let’s be teachers, mentors and nurturers.  But let’s target the young adults with our good intentions.  If we don’t, we are missing a great opportunity to build their futures as well as our own.

nancy, Heme/Bl Bk/Education - MT, Hanover Hospital December 1, 2008 5:31 PM
Hanover PA

Interesting article, Stephanie. I first heard the term "helicopter parents" a year ago and think it is an amusing but apt description of parents who hover.

Traditionally parents have taught kids to be self-reliant and that there can be value in making mistakes. The parents of Millenials do run the risk that their offspring might find it more difficult to lead independent lives and make life decisions without (or regardless of) parental input.

As you and I probably know form experience, Stephanie, self sufficiency builds confidence and the ability to learn life-long survival skills.

Nick, you are probably being a little facetious in your post, but I have had both parents and spouses try to intervene when a Millenial employee faced disciplinary action at work.

Regardless of our own view of the wisdom of that parenting style and the resultant work/life ethics it is instructive to know that Millenials do have a different life-view and that employers can take advantage of their special relationships with their parents.

Glen McDaniel November 24, 2008 4:06 PM

This new generation of employees sure has a lot going for it that previous generations did not.  I hope that they don't start having their parents tag along and hold their hands for interviews and such.

Nick Speigler, MT November 20, 2008 9:33 PM
Buffalo NY

Hi Glen:

I have a link you may be interested in reading:

While it is a good thing for parents to set examples for their children and be involved to a certain extent in their children's education, the most important "education" those children may receive as adults is learning the importance of a good work ethic, improved interpersonal skills in effective working relationships with others who have diverse values and personalities, etc., for THEMSELVES.  

I was born in 1978, so I guess I'm a "Gen X/Y." LOL

My mother and I were very close during my childhood, and I even attended college only 30-40 minutes from her home ten years ago before the days of cell phone text messages.  Her opinions and suggestions as to how I should handle certain situations in life were very important to me then, and still are, albeit to a lesser degree now.

However, I have to wonder how these young adult children of "helicopter parents" will ever learn independence, self-sufficiency, problem-solving skills, etc., in the near future if parents are ENCOURAGED to intervene in disputes with college professors and supervisors in their jobs once they get out into the "real world."

Stephanie Mathis, MT(ASCP), Generalist - Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Danville Regional Medical Center November 11, 2008 12:31 PM
Danville VA

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