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Helicopter Employers

by
Megan Stanish
Nov 26, 2013, 6:33 am ET

helicopterAnother recent article popped up in my email asking how well we, the employers, are measuring up to the expectations of the millennial generation. You know what my answer is to that? Enough already!

Please give me a moment to breathe, and then the rant will continue.

Ready? Yes? So am I.

We, my friends and colleagues, are turning into helicopter employers. We hover and scurry and watch and worry about meeting the expectations and the needs of this one generation in our midst. Are we giving them enough flexibility? Do we do enough social good to make them feel in tune with our vision and purpose? Are we providing them adequate modern technologies and social media access to allow them to feel continuously connected with their friends and families?  Do our practices allow them enough contact with their parents that they feel comfortable and confident?

What is our problem? Yes, we want good employees within this segment to thrive and grow within our organizations. We want them to be engaged, to perform well, to stay with us and to build a thriving career with us. Of course we do. But are we going too far worrying about adjusting our business practices and offerings to meet their expectations? What about them learning to adjust to meet the needs, and sometimes the limitations, of the workplace?

  • Sometimes a job or career requires working in a specific location and within specific hours.
  • Sometimes the tasks at hand and the work environment disallow social media access.
  • Sometimes a role requires that you prove you can tackle a task or make a decision on your own.
  • Sometimes an otherwise ideal workplace cannot, for financial or other reasons, upgrade to the specific technologies one would prefer.

There’s another problem that plays into all of this: When we recommend changes to certain aspects of the workplace and we base our suggestions on meeting millennials’ expectations, we negatively impact the perceived significance of these recommendations. In other words, when our recommendations are interpreted as “pink puffy heart feel-good” options rather than as programs that can positively impact our business outcomes (through driving up profit, improving productivity, supporting quality output, etc.), we hurt our credibility as business partners.

Is my generation the culprit in all of this? Many in my generation are the parents of many of millennials. It’s par for the course. My generation is the one that started this “everything has to be fair” stuff, doing away with praising kids for excellence in anything lest other children be made to feel inadequate. My generation is the one that kicked off the practice of only doling out participation awards (to everyone), the one that fights like mad with teachers to let children have do-over tests when they don’t perform well, the one that does anything to prevent kids from feeling frustration or disappointment. This obsession with meeting millennials’ expectations feels like an extension of this focus.

You may think I’m just old and cynical, and you may be right. The thing is, I believe in focusing on culture and engagement in the workplace, and that these elements not only reduce turnover but can have a significant, positive impact on business performance. Changing business practices, tools, and technologies — as well as meeting the expectations of our employees — can benefit the business and the employees.

I just don’t want us to become helicopter employers. And about that, don’t ask me to answer my cell phone if a millennial calls me in the middle of a business meeting. On that count, I draw the line.

 

image from osun.gov.ng

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Marc Rodriguez

    FYI … Millennials would never CALL you during a meeting. They would TEXT you … Who calls anyone any more ? ;o)

  2. Jacque Vilet

    Hi Megan —- First, you don’t look old enough to be a parent of a Gen Y! Second I agree with everything you said —- in spades. But I think in order to hire/retain these people companies will have to be flexible. There is a fine line between being flexible and changing the entire company. I get frustrated too: Example: I had a Gen Y shadow me for 3 months. She wanted to jump right in a consult with a customer —- not to do the pre-work/analysis before the visit. Just who did she think would do the pre-work —- me???? Really ticked me off.

    I would love to kick __utt of parents who created this whole thing about “let no one fail”. And parents want to sit in on interviews, negotiate offers, and even go with their child to the first week on the job. AND after all the bad press they still do it!!! I understand that some of the really big accounting firms have a section on their website just for parents to keep them informed.

    I don’t have the answer except again companies are going to have to flex a little unless they don’t need to fill positions.
    With jobs hard to come by I would think Gen Y would be willing to flex some too. Maybe not —- I don’t they’re very flexible.

  3. Megan Stanish

    Marc – Excellent point! I stand corrected.

    Jacque – Thank you for your well considered response (and for your compliment!). You make a great point that companies will have to be flexible to hire and retain these individuals, and I agree. My largest frustration, frankly, isn’t with this generation but with the rest of us, including the parents. I hear you about the Gen Y individual who shadowed you. I’ve heard several similar stories from friends and colleagues. I also remember college classmates of mine (Gen Xers) who likely would have behaved similarly. I may be entirely wrong, but I think much of the “bad behavior” attributed to Gen Y in the workplace is more linked to their youth and inexperience rather than unique their generation. Truly, it’s our response to them that is the most frustrating. I believe – rightly or wrongly – that if we were to set high expectations for them and hold them accountable, if we were to treat them like the adults they are rather than coddle them, they’d perform beautifully and be solid assets for our companies.

  4. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Megan. I’ve said it before and (no doubt) I’ll be saying it again: If employers can just get over their own sense of entitlement- that they need the “Fab 5%” of employees
    (or somewhat larger percentages of some key positions) then they DON’T HAVE TO WORRY about treating people well, and can continue to go about business as usual. There are LOADS of very qualified people out there willing to do what you need without catering to their every whims, or even without basic human courtesy.

    Keith

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