For Happier Workers, Businesses Need to Take a Chapter Out of Family Business Employee Handbook
The findings are clear: family businesses treat their employees better, pay them better, and keep them longer.
In our latest research report, The Family Business Annual Survey 2023, the numbers don’t lie when it comes to family businesses keeping their employee workforce healthy, and happy.
Our just released study found that 91% of family businesses kept or added jobs over the last year. This is quite an accomplishment in a COVID/Post-COVID work environment.
But the study, among 571 nationwide family businesses, also found 46% pay above average wages. And, to make themselves even more valuable, 82% of family businesses invested through donations in local charities, or national chapters of local charities.
With this kind of positive employee care, it’s no wonder they tend to stick around. In fact, our research shows 72% of family businesses have what we call “generational employees,” that is, employees whose own families work in the family business generation after generation.
What’s the magic that keeps these employees happy? Is it better pay? A sense of security and family? Loyalty?
Well, it appears to be all of the above, and more.
Family owner and CEO, Mark Peters, of Butterball Farms in Michigan, believes it’s the family business advantage of “patient capital” and harnessing the power of the workforce.
“One of the great things about multi-generational family businesses is that we can be patient with our capital, we can forgo short-term gains for better longer-term gains,” he told me an interview late last year.
Peter has even written a book on how to use the power of collaboration to stabilize your workforce and impact your community called, “The Source.” Large corporations may want to take a chapter or two out of Peters’ book.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, South African heavy equipment service entrepreneur David Ellen trained his least experienced workers himself using the simple customer-focused mantra: “We’re not Number One. You’re Number One.”
“I trained everyone myself in this customer philosophy,” says Ellen in recent video he did with me for Family Enterprise USA . “This what made us different, this is why customers eventually believed in our service over our competitors, and it’s why we grew so fast,” he said.
Work force training also came up as a top critical issue in our survey. In fact, workforce training and the cost of labor was the No. 1 issue (31%) family businesses cited as the greatest impediment to growth in the coming year, according to research.
Family businesses can also get creative when dealing with workforce training and employee retention.
Two examples are Chad Goodfellow, CEO, Goodfellow Bros., Wenatchee, Wash., and Mike Davis, President, Industrial Roofing Company, Lewiston, Maine.
Goodfellow, managing the 100-year-old company’s Maui office, has grown his contracting company from its small agriculture roadwork roots to having over 300 employees working on government and private sector projects across the Northwest, West, and islands of Hawaii.
As part of its far-reaching community involvement, Goodfellow has helped train and certify firefighters in Hawaii to assist budget strapped local authorities.
In Maine, Industrial Roofing Company’s President Mike Davis sees training labor affecting daily operations.
The shortage of trained laborers, and lack of government programs, has forced him to create the company’s own IRC Academy, which trains inexperienced workers in the profession of commercial roofing.
He hopes local, state, and national governments sees this as one example to help create more professional trades people. He is not alone in believing we need to welcome new migrant workers to communities and develop home-grown programs to train them to be productive community citizens.
These are the reasons family business employees stay with family businesses.
America’s family businesses represent 59% of the country’s private workforce, or some 83.3 million U.S. jobs, research shows. Family business is no small business for our country.
It’s time Congress and American business leaders recognize the power of the family business and family business workers.
Fortunately, we do have a new window of opportunity in Congress with the formation of the new Congressional Family Business Caucus.
The bipartisan caucus is co-led by Reps. Jodey Arrington (TX-19), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Claudia Tenney (NY-22).
The caucus gathered for the first time a few weeks ago, and though largely aimed at educating Congress on the size and scope of America’s family business might, this new caucus will allow family business leaders to directly connect and meet with Congressional leaders in a way that can deeply influence thinking on Capitol Hill.
After all, Congress and corporate America might learn a thing or two from our family businesses, especially when it comes to holding on to employees, and keeping them happy.
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