How would you feel about heading in to the office with mom or dad (or both) in tow?
Anxiety that they’ll say something lame to your boss, or excitement that the folks finally get to put faces to all the names you’ve dropped?
For the second year in a row, LinkedIn is betting that bringing your parents to work is something to celebrate and might also have benefits for your career. The idea was spawned when LinkedIn’s researchers discovered that one in three parents do not understand what their child does for a living. LinkedIn seized the opportunity to turn the tide. An annual event, Bring In Your Parents Day, was created to encourage understanding. According to LinkedIn, over 15,000 workers from 30 companies in 16 countries brought the folks in to their offices.
LinkedIn is not alone in its efforts. Large enterprises such as Google host a “Take Your Parents to Work Day,” as do smaller firms in a less formal way. David Griner, Adweek’s social editor says that when he was a manager at Luckie & Company, he welcomed his report’s parents. And although the company did not have a dedicated day to bring in the parents, Griner agreed with LinkedIn’s findings that the elders didn’t know what their offspring did all day. “I think digitally centric jobs are confusing for anybody to picture. Helps to see the environment,” he says.
According to Jill Hirz Jones, corporate communications manager at LinkedIn, it certainly helped explain to her father, a retired auto mechanic, answer his burning question: “Why does it take so many people to run a website?”
Once he got to LinkedIn’s Mountain View offices and saw the number of employees, Jones says, he understood that his daughter did more than just use a computer all day. “Communicating within the organization is a lot more complicated than coming out to the garage at the mechanic shop and yelling to the team,” she explains. Jones says that her father also got to attend a session where one of the founders gave everyone a high-level overview of the business. “I could then tie back and explain how my role fits into the company mission and vision,” she says.
For others, bringing mom to work had unexpected benefits. Adele Gambardella Cehrs, CEO of Epic PR Group, says that her Italian mother’s great personality and skill in the kitchen made a hit at a recent dinner and retreat for new and prospective clients.
At 39, Cehrs is a gen Xer, not a millennial used to having a helicopter parent. She says, “I think by including my mother, it helped my clients and prospects see me as not just an entrepreneur, but as a human being–a family person.” As a result, Cehr says, “We have gained new relationships with several of the people who came and secured four new accounts. We are going to make it an annual event.”
Bridget Lewis, senior media relations officer at the University of Texas at Arlington, says she would definitely consider bringing her mom to work to help her career. Though her mother Carolyn is now a retired high school teacher, Lewis says she still finds value in her know-how, resourcefulness, fearlessness, creativity, and wit.
“She has always had a great way of approaching workplace challenges and career conundrums because she is able to communicate well with anyone on any level,” Lewis points out. Her daughter on the other hand, despite years of work in television news confesses she can sometimes be shy. “I actually channel my “inner Carolyn” when faced with certain issues at work,” she admits.
That said, Lewis adds, “I don’t know that I would have wanted my mom at work with me in my 20s or 30s, but I certainly sought her counsel while working through challenges that can accompany a person in the extremely competitive television news industry.”
For Rich Stoddart, North America CEO of the advertising agency Leo Burnett Company, whose company participated in LinkedIn’s event last year, the benefits are further reaching. “If parents appreciate the Leo Burnett culture, our employees are going to be happier and feel a sense of loyalty,” he says. Stoddart says that of the nearly 1,600 employees at the Chicago office, he’s expecting more than 200 parents ranging in age from 40 to 80, including his own mother. “I’m looking forward to seeing my mom get her hands dirty with what we do every day.”
Stoddart says his office will offer the visitors a menu of activities designed to be flexible “so parents can roam the office and pop into the sessions that interest them,” including an indie-funk band performance, which is part of the company’s Artists in Residence program, a tour of the retail lab, or a social media and interactive brand workshops.
The bottom line for Alyssa Galella, director of Earned Media at Huge, isn’t that bringing your parents in encourages them to keep hovering. “We spend more time at work than anywhere else, so that’s a huge part of our lives to share with them,” she says, “I think it’s just that we love our parents as humans and want them to be able to see what our daily lives are like.”
LinkedIn’s annual Bring Your Parents To Work Day is tomorrow Thursday November 6, 2014.