Are You Kidding? Black Hawk Parents!

February 15

In four years, over 50% of your workforce will be Generation Y. Imagine a world where one in every two employees is 32 years old or younger. You may be trying to get used to discussing benefits and job offers with the employee and their parents, but just wait - it's going to get better. The older Generation Ys have helicopter parents, but the younger ones have Black Hawk helicopter parents.

These would be the same employees who were appalled SAT testing did not allow an "app" for spell check on essay questions. The same ones who leave a job because they can't accompany the family to the traditional Christmas skiing vacation in Vail. The ones who refuse to accept the annual holiday turkey and the ones who don't hesitate to call the Chief Nursing Officer to have a chat about needed changes in the on-boarding process.

They would also be the ones who can work faster and more effectively than any generation before them. They are the ones who are trained on the most up-to-date technology and the ones who look at the Baby Boomer and Veteran patients and see their parents and grandparents and provide extraordinary care because they love and respect both.

Say what we want about these kids, it would do everyone who manages or simply works along side of them a lot of good to stop the judging and simply try and understand how they view the world. When entering the workforce, every generation is misunderstood and this group of tech-savvy, altruistic and team oriented employees are no exception. If generations didn't change the workplace, women would still be taking dictation as opposed to leading the Board Room.

I'm a Baby Boomer and once I hit the road for college, it never entered my mind to call my parents and ask them for advice, much less to proofread a paper or simply have any insight on how to navigate the system of getting a degree. First, I would have had to place a "long distance" call from the pay phones in the dorm and my father would have been on the other end telling everyone in hearing distance to "talk fast, it's expensive." Long distance? Really? Generation Ys just pick up the cell phone and chat or text multiple times during the day with their parents.

I admit it irritates me when the self-assured, competent and motivated Generation Y employee tells me they want to check with their parents about a business decision. "Are you kidding?" I mumble to my self. "This is a big girl job" I continue, and then quickly answer the cell phone because my son, Jay, has called to discuss his own business decision with me.

I have been Jay's closest and most trusted advisor his entire life. I have work experiences that benefit him in large and small career choices. Should I deny him from tapping into this valuable resource just because it irritates the Baby Boomer's concept of "how it should be"?

Jay is an older Generation Y and he admits he never actually says he's going to call his mother, but that is why I am just a helicopter parent. I may hover, but my younger counterparts get in your face about their children. It's out in the open that the parents are coming to work with their children. "Black Hawk" parents want accountability. After all, you are working with or hiring their biggest investment in terms of money and emotion and they are looking for return on investment. They aren't going to back up because you might not be comfortable.

The war for these exceptional professionals is going to be fierce, especially for the skilled healthcare providers, so you'll need to utilize everything at your disposal, including courting the parents. If you think that is ridiculous and just something you are not going to do, maybe you should consider that other organizations, in and out of healthcare, are embracing the parents.

Ernst & Young now distributes "parent packets" and recruiters from General Mills send welcome baskets to parents of new hires along with the ones for the new employee. Sutter Health System include parents on employee sponsored events and Merrill Lynch holds a parents' day for interns' families which includes tours on the trading floor.

Several healthcare delivery systems are now holding a Bring Your Parent To Work day ending with a luncheon. Tours are given and information provided about why the facility is the best place for their children to work is all part of the program. Benefits, tuition reimbursement and the amount of vacation provided is discussed so when the new employee realizes she can't get off for the Christmas skiing vacation, the Baby Boomer parents say "sorry, but you are a working girl now. We'll see you after the first of the year. Make sure you feed Fido!"

No one is saying there shouldn't be limits. Even colleges won't give out the students' grades to parents unless they sign a waiver and healthcare delivery systems need to welcome and embrace the parents but they shouldn't be an everyday part of the work place.

It is important however, that we all look at the situation from the vantage point of the Generation Y employee. I can remember when my high school teachers hated that we would use a calculator for just about everything. "Learn simple math" they would say and now we are telling the kids they need to know how to spell even though we all rely on spell-check. Is it so crazy they wanted to have that everyday tool when taking a test as important as the SAT?

And while it oddly irritates a Baby Boomer that a Generation Y employee begs off from the gift of a turkey (what are they too good?), the young employee might just be a vegetarian and didn't want to waste the turkey or the company's money. Boomers would have taken it without question.

Unemployment in healthcare sits at 3.1% while the rest of the sectors in this country struggle at 9.7%. Any licensed healthcare professional who can't get a job is probably someone you don't want to hire anyway. And it's only going to get worse. So let's embrace the fact we need these talented kids and we need to keep them once they are on board. That means we need to understand them. Ask them what is important to them and really listen, without judgment, and you may be surprised to find they really just want to be part of the team, contribute to something bigger than themselves and make their parents proud.

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