One of the greatest complaints small employers have is how difficult it is to find good employees. But there is one place they often fail to search for new job applicants – the families and friends of their best employees. After all, current employees who have great work attitudes probably have brothers and sisters with great work attitudes too. Before rushing headlong into hiring family or friends,
consider the advantages and disadvantages to avoid making costly decisions.
Family members and close friends often come into a business with a strong commitment to the company, more so than the average employee.
Friends and family often think of the company as an extension of their relationship with the employee. They may be more flexible and willing to work when needed, anticipating that they will personally benefit from the longterm success of the company.
Often, you may know family and friends very well and are familiar with their capabilities and shortcomings. This may enable you to place them in context with your business. Also, your familiarity may allow you to train them more quickly than other new employees.
A relative may take advantage of family status, knowing that it is hard to retrench them when you’re going to be sitting down at the dinner table with them at night.
Other employees may see the hiring as nepotism, especially if the family member is given preferential treatment or given a position without having the appropriate experience or training.
Family problems can be brought into the workplace. It’s one thing to have a family disagreement at night and be able to leave it at home when going to work in the morning. But it is entirely different when you’re facing the same person at work. The strain may affect the entire business.
Managing the mix
Hiring friends and relatives can be a balancing act. If not handled well, it can sour the working environment. But hiring friends and family can have great benefits too, as long as you proceed carefully with these following points:
Business is not a charity. Don’t hire an employee’s relative just because they ‘need’ a job. If someone has trouble holding down a job, you don’t want them either. • Write a detailed job description. Make it clear that if the relative or friend doesn’t perform as expected, he or she will have to go. Hire on a probationary basis, establishing a two week or month-long period to see how things work out.
The right ‘stuff’. Ask specific, detailed questions about their qualifications before you agree to interview them. People rarely see their own relatives clearly. They’re likely to make comments such as “He’s a great guy” or “She’s so smart.” That doesn’t tell you if they have relevant work experience or training. While you want to hire people with the right attitude, leave yourself an out: “I’m not sure Chris has the right computer skills we need.”
Don’t have too many chiefs. It is advisable not to have relatives or friends reporting to one another, or working too closely together. It’s one thing to have siblings work for the same company in different areas, but if they work together on the same project, you’re likely to see family or friendship patterns emerge.
The trouble with spouses. Spouses or domestic partners working together can present a number of difficulties. There are logistical issues: holidays or family emergencies may leave you doubly short-handed. And behavioural issues: a terrific, eager worker may change dramatically with a spouse around. The dynamics of a couple’s relationship is stronger – and usually more emotive – than a employer/employee relationship.
Be cruel to be kind. Be toughest on your own relatives. Before you hire a relative, make it clear to them that they are going to have to prove themselves, and they will be held to the highest standards.
Never play favourites. Make sure all the rules apply to all employees. Everyone has to be qualified and they have to do their jobs well. Otherwise, they’re not hired.