Employers: Don’t Be Helicopter Parents


Employers: Don’t Be Helicopter Parents

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
— Dictionary.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?”.

A large white conference room filled with young professionals, one of which is placing sticky notes containing ideas on the wall.

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 to our employees and let THEM 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.

Ready to learn more?

Jordan Peace