Do You Prefer Employees Or Non-Employees To Answer Your Questions The Benefits of Employee Handbook Practices for a Family-Run Business

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The Benefits of Employee Handbook Practices for a Family-Run Business

Does a family owned and operated small business need the professional employee handbook management techniques used by other small to mid-sized companies? The short answer to that question is “yes,” but most family business owners disagree. After all, we’re talking about family, here. Do you really need safeguards such as a handbook, safety policy, compliance notice and employment documentation to employ your wife, children, brother or other family members?

Absolutely. No matter who you employ, state and federal laws require that you treat your employees fairly, keep them safe and inform them of their rights. The family is still entitled to unemployment compensation, OSHA protections, equal rights and workers’ compensation in the event of an injury. (There are some exceptions for family members who are part owners.)

Unclear Lines of Communication Can Be Cleared in an Employee Handbook

The lines between family and employer/employee relationships can be blurred in business. This can cause disruptions in how efficiently the business is run as well as upset the business structure. Treating your family as family at home, and as employees at work clarifies those boundaries and develops relationships all around.

What about the perception of non-family employees? Treating relatives to a different standard than non-family employees is a real morale killer and one of the best ways to guarantee continued turnover. Professional employee management practices ensure that everyone is pulling their weight and not taking advantage of the clan connection.

Professional employee handbook management techniques used by large companies do more than protect a business from unemployment or workers’ compensation claims or lawsuits. They create a structure for employees to do their best. Employees are most productive when they know what their duties are, and the standards they are expected to meet. Having things like a handbook, job descriptions and conflict management procedures creates an atmosphere of security. Employees take their work seriously because they know that their salary is not subject to family politics.

All of that may seem like a lot of paperwork, but there are affordable management systems available for small businesses. An hour or two on a slow afternoon and you’ll be ready to manage two groups for maximum productivity.

The last point I want to make is that over the years, I have worked with many small business owners who put complete trust in their family employees. They are shocked to learn that their son is stealing from them or that their daughter is having an affair with a married employee. These are the types of situations that all companies are on the lookout for. In business, the child does not consider that taking without asking is stealing because it is “his” money. The daughter does not consider her behavior inappropriate because “who will fire me?’

A family-run business can create a sense of ownership among members who do not have an ownership position. Brothers enter into bad contracts that they are not authorized to negotiate. Sons will decide to go in a direction not approved by the real owners if the proper management structure is not put in place. Setting boundaries for family is more important, in my opinion, than for non-family employees. It protects this most important asset that supports everyone – the family business.

I own and manage that business. I know we start businesses to make a better life for the people we love the most. But just because they relate to us doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes or bad decisions. Professional management practices, including an employee handbook, allow members to grow and learn the business without putting it at risk. And that’s why even a family-run business needs human resources management systems.

And, of course, our own “Your Employee Handbook” has clear, concise, and fair policies that help improve communication with all employees, including family members. Click here for more information.

– Jackie Wells Smith

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