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2 minutes

Employers: Don’t Be Helicopter Parents

Cassandra Rose, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Unless your com­pa­ny breaks all kinds of labor laws, they employ grown-ups. Adults, by law and by nature, have voli­tion — the abil­i­ty to make their own deci­sions. Not only do today’s young adults demand choice, but they are com­plete­ly accus­tomed to it.

When I go to Star­bucks, I make (with­out hes­i­ta­tion) at least six choic­es just to walk out with a cup of cof­fee. Drink type, milk type, caf­feine-lev­el (full-caf, half-caf, decaf!), fla­vor pumps, espres­so type (have you tried the blonde?), and of course – whip or no whip. Wel­come to every­day life as an adult in the West­ern world.

Recent­ly I heard some­one use the word ​“pater­nal­is­tic” to describe a com­pa­ny. It was an apt descrip­tion; she went on to explain that many com­pa­nies treat their employ­ees as one might a child, mak­ing per­son­al deci­sions on their behalf because they ​“know what is best for them”.

Don’t believe me? Let’s ask our­selves a few ques­tions and then reassess.

  • Who decides the dress code?
  • Who decides when the work­day begins and ends?
  • Who decides how long mater­ni­ty leave should be?
  • Who decides what the com­pen­sa­tion struc­ture looks like?
  • Who decides when bonus­es get paid out?

Answer: not indi­vid­ual employ­ees. And that’s okay!

In most cas­es, it makes per­fect sense that lead­er­ship should set and keep stan­dards that apply to all while try­ing to be as fair and under­stand­ing as pos­si­ble. That’s just what lead­er­ship is. But, when does it go too far?

Enter ​“heli­copter parenting.”

heli­copter par­ent­ing:
noun Infor­mal.
a style of child rear­ing in which an over­pro­tec­tive moth­er or father dis­cour­ages a child’s inde­pen­dence by being too involved in the child’s life

— Dic​tio​nary​.com

The area of ben­e­fits and perks is final­ly break­ing free from the heli­copter par­ent­ing mod­el. For many long decades, employ­ees have been told what their ben­e­fits are instead of being asked what ben­e­fits they would like. An employ­er might spend $20,000/year for health insur­ance for one employ­ee who real­ly needs the ​“Cadil­lac” plan, while anoth­er is cov­ered by their par­ents’ or spouse’s plan – and they receive no off-set for an enor­mous gap in total com­pen­sa­tion. Sim­i­lar­ly, a new par­ent might receive $4,000 or two weeks paid leave (a won­der­ful ges­ture!) while a peer con­tin­ues to work and receives noth­ing addi­tion­al. That’s got to leave some peo­ple feel­ing like ​“where’s my $4,000?”.

Employ­ers, per­haps inno­cent­ly and with great inten­tions, have decid­ed for their employ­ees what is or should be impor­tant to them.

Insur­ance is impor­tant. Hav­ing chil­dren is impor­tant. Sav­ing for retire­ment is impor­tant. Funds fun­neled in these direc­tions are vital for many employees.

How­ev­er, why don’t we live up to the idea that every­one is dif­fer­ent and has dif­fer­ent goals and needs in life? Instead of decid­ing how our ben­e­fits bud­get should be spent, how about we offer a pro­por­tion­ate amount and let our employ­ees decide! Once again, we are employ­ing adults, are we not?

If that con­cept is too big of a pill to swal­low quite yet, what about we start with perks/​fringe ben­e­fits? Fringe clients are doing exact­ly this. Per employ­ee, they are offer­ing a CHOICE of ser­vices to their employ­ees and ask­ing them to select the offering(s) that are most mean­ing­ful and help­ful to their indi­vid­ual lives.

Fringe clients have taken the bold step to invest in their employees in such a way that reduces their stress, sparks joy, gives them time back in their day, and positively impacts their families.

Every­body gets what they want. Every­body gets to choose. Every­body gets treat­ed like an adult.

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