• Service: Enterprise, Family business
  • Type: Business and industry issue
  • Date: 9/20/2013

Human capital in the family business: managing your business’ most valuable asset 

Human capital in the family business
Recent research suggests that employees are happier in family-run businesses than in corporate environments. To ensure the continued growth of your family business, it’s important to invest in and manage its most important asset – your people, otherwise known as ‘human capital’.

Like any business, a family business’ success is built on its people. But it’s not just those within the family that will ensure success and growth – it’s the employees as well. These non-family members bring with them the potential to grow the business into a well-established and large enterprise with the potential for longevity beyond the (owner) first generation.

The proper management of the people within your business will help you to attract, motive, and retain the best people for the job, ensuring the maximum use of their time and skills.

Managing human capital – important considerations

Mobility: place people where they’re most needed

Mobility is an important factor in business success. You need the ability to move people into the positions in which they are most needed, especially in a world that’s becoming increasingly global and more mobile.

It’s important to acknowledge that people are individuals before making any drastic moves. While mobility is important, your employees are people with lives and aspirations of their own. In order to be able to retain your best people, you need to look after them, whether by encouraging them to speak out about a potential move or helping them to make one in as smooth and simple a way as possible, whether that is a physical move or a mental one.

Challenges in creating a high level of mobility include the cost factor of moving and re-training individuals, and compliance concerns (both within the company and on a country-wide or even global level).

Reward good work

Salary is just one factor when it comes to a happy, loyal workforce. A business that wants to retain its employees needs to offer its people attractive benefits that work for both the company and the individual.

Have a star performer that wants to work half day? If you can make it work, why not? But remember that fairness is key for a reward process to avoid bias, so determine upfront how the reward system will work and clearly communicate that to all employees.

Other concerns include employee investment in the company’s success, stakeholder requirements, and legal and compliance considerations.

Human resources management is not a ‘soft skill’

Too often business owners see their Human Resources department (or officer) as a relatively unimportant part of the business. This is a mistake – attracting, caring for, developing, and retaining talented, motivated employees is a difficult task and should be a key focus in a growing business. Ignore HR at your peril…

Investing time and energy in this area can prove to be highly lucrative as it’s there to ensure that employees are both compliant and heard. We’re no longer living in a society where individuals stay with their first company for the majority of their working lives. There is more opportunity to move than ever before and individuals are increasingly invested in their own careers, rather than the business as whole.

A focused, innovative HR department will help you to prevent talent shortfalls and manage your existing employees effectively. A fast growing business needs to retain its employees if it’s to succeed. And, for the sake of growth and longevity, it’s important for these employees to come from outside the family, bringing with them their knowledge, skills, and potential to move the business into new areas and across new locations.

Christophe Bernard

Christophe Bernard
I am a KPMG partner based in the French firm’s Paris office, responsible for encouraging the growth of our firms’ middle markets practice across Europe, Middle East and Africa, a majority of that market comprises of family businesses.

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