How To Recognize Human Capital In Your Family Business

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In an exercise reminiscent of “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” imagine that tomorrow you go to your family office but there’s no one at the front desk, no one at the phones, no one in IT, no one filing or filling orders, no one manufacturing or selling your widgets… If there’s no one to run it, would you have a company? What can you do to boost employee engagement?

The better the knowledge, skills, and productivity of leaders and employees the better the business. Employees also represent the company to the public and the happier they are the better the image will be.

Bringing in talent that fits

As families need to work harder to attract the top talent for new family office jobs, it makes sense to focus on candidates as a whole rather than just on the individual’s education. This is why it makes sense to employ people for who they are and not what they know. For some roles people obviously require a particular set of skills, however, new employees need to be on-boarded and taught the processes and systems that are unique to the company either way. By doing this, businesses are able to attract top talent where there is also a culture fit.

Engaging your employees

Attracting new talent is one thing but a company’s success is also dependent on engaging its employees. When employees enjoy working for a company they are more effective and creative and they’ll often be willing to give that little extra or develop into what the organization might demand of them.

According to Phil Chambers, CEO of Peakon (employee engagement software),

Our data shows that an employee’s belief in leadership and company strategy is one of the biggest influencers of employee engagement.

Family businesses are already in front. Research shows that employees rate their company higher when it’s family-based. If employees perform their best the company will perform better, hence the employees’ view of the place they work is crucial. Not only do employees value their working place higher, a study on innovation also shows that employees engage more in family-based companies, which increases productivity.

Chambers continues, “It makes sense that employees at family-owned businesses, whose leadership live-and-breathe everything that the organization stands for, would have more faith in their senior management and strategic direction. You can expect these employees to be more engaged and productive in their roles, and the organization more profitable.”

Through their everyday work employees both encounter the businesses bigger or smaller weak links and you should take advantage of this knowledge and listen to their demands and wishes for the future.

People spend a lot of time working with others and they want the time spent to have meaning

Ethical Leadership

Family-owned companies tend to have an ethical touch and it affects positively on employees. When a company faces a financial crisis it has to reduce costs to stay afloat. A study on proactive stakeholder engagement shows that if family businesses have to choose between paying profit to shareholders or protecting jobs they are more likely to do the latter. This increases employees’ job security and gives them more stability. We follow this line of thought and emphasize a focus on ethics.

In spite of engagement and ethics, employees in family-owned businesses aren’t necessarily more satisfied than in other companies. Satisfaction and productivity go hand-in-hand, not only when it comes to family office jobs, so it could be beneficial to work on increasing satisfaction. One way to boost employee satisfaction is giving them the best possible working conditions through e.g. technology, nice environment, vibe etc.

If you want your employees to be ambassadors, it is crucial for them to believe in the brand. Sometimes the most effective tools are really the low hanging fruit — a flat organizational structure, clear internal communication of where the company is heading, more autonomy and two-way personal feedback sessions with employees cost nothing to implement. It’s these soft factors that enable employees to build strong relationships with both the company and co-workers that could even relate in employee friendships —enter Thelma & Louise.

Engagement equals return

It’s crucial to engage both family and employees in your family office. In this way you improve human capital and your family will stay in business and your employees will rate the business higher. And it’s a good investment because often your business’ performance is solely dependent on their performance.

This post originally appeared on Francois Botha’s thoughtleader column on


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