The Difficulties of Hiring for a Family Business

Each year, our Economic Outlook survey reflects the challenges that family business leaders have in finding and hiring qualified employees. Conway Center service provider Mike Devine of Devine Consulting addresses this issue in a blog post, The Difficulties of Hiring for a Family Business:

When one looks at the hiring data, new hires fail 89% of the time not because of their skill, but because of their personality and how they fit into the culture of the company. Person-environment fit is important in any business, but perhaps the most important in a small business or a family owned business.

Talk with anybody who works in a family owned business or a small growing business and ask them what the culture is like at these companies and you will quickly see why it is so tough to assess talent for these companies. Just the other day I was talking with one of my clients who works in a family owned business and one of the most important traits they wanted our firm to assess for was cultural fit. She explained that the company acts like one big family regardless of whether you are related to the ownership. As a result, they tend to communicate in much more informal styles and sometimes the emotional barriers that are never crossed in a traditional business are crossed there. This was an important thing for me to understand she said, because they have lost really talented employees in the past because they do not mesh well with that type of environment; often taking things personal and creating more conflict.

She further explained that their culture and organizational structure tends to be flat and there is no role for an employee that is too good for them. She used the example of the CEO often being the guy with his head in the copy machine trying to fix a paper jam or putting in more toner. This structure meshes well with some employees but she has found that many people regardless of their skill do not like having ambiguity in their job roles or are not humble enough to make coffee for everybody.

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