One of the most important aspects of your field service business is your staff.
Hiring the right employees is key to success, and having a solid training program in place for improving workplace skills can bolster your customer service and prevent employee turnover.
But what happens when your employees and staff are also part of your family? How do you implement a successful training program when it involves the people closest to you?
Nearly 80% of businesses around the world are either fully or partially family owned, and 30% of family-owned businesses survive at least two or three generations.
While working with family can certainly have its benefits, the often-informal family dynamic could have a potentially negative impact on the effectiveness of that training. You’re not necessarily correcting or directing random hires, you’re addressing your children or grandchildren, siblings, parents, or other loved ones.
You will need to be aware of the challenges faced training family versus training non-related employees.
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Surviving Employee Training With Family
It’s natural for family businesses to welcome members of the next generation, but it’s important to remember that any role given within your company is not an entitlement. They may be family, but they still have a job to do.
That’s why it’s important to ensure that any roles fulfilled by family members come with real responsibility and accountability. Every employee needs an opportunity to make difference in the company.
That’s why if you’re dealing with employees and staff that are also relatives, it will be important for you to:
- Provide accurate feedback on performance – Just because they’re family doesn’t mean they get a free pass to slack on the job
- Create a positive and supportive climate – On the other hand, don’t assume you don’t have to encourage them simply because they know you love them
- Create opportunities for growth and further skill development – Encourage engagement by offering opportunities to advance, don’t leave them stuck in a role with nowhere to go
- Establish effective conflict resolution processes – Emotions can run high when working with family members, so it’s important to have a process in place for handling difficult situations before they happen
- Start training early and do it often – Offer incentives for training and encourage every employee to engage in the learning process
It’s also important to treat non-related employees with the same standards as relatives (and vice versa) so that everyone understands the value they add to your business.
How to Train Family and Non-Family Employees
When it comes to the actual training, there are several methods you can use with family and non-family employees to improve engagement.
Start By Training Your Top People
If you work with family, you may have a tendency to favor relatives by giving them certain roles, even if they’re under-qualified. While favoritism may gain you brownie points with said relative, it won’t necessarily help your business.
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Ideally, you want to train your highest-performing staff members first, regardless of their relationship to you. Training the most qualified employees will ultimately be more cost-effective, and it can create a sense of ownership for both family and non-family employees who want to stick around the business longer.
A trained employee is less likely to disengage than an under-trained one, so choose employees that have shown the appropriate level of interest, those who have the right skills and aptitudes, and those whose attitude will help the company grow.
Train By Trickle-Down
Sending all of your employees through intensive training isn’t necessarily a cost-effective option for small businesses, but having a few top-level, highly trained employees can make a big difference in the overall culture of your company.
These employees can also be used to train other employees, who can then be used to train those further down the chain of command. Using a trickle-down training method saves time and energy and can also foster a sense of community, as each employee feels responsible for the success of another.
Be aware, however, of any emotional conflicts between multi-generational workers or if there are any family conflicts that may interfere with trickle-down training. For example, a family member from an older generation may not appreciate being lectured by the younger generation.
That’s why it’s important to have conflict resolution strategies in place so that trickle-down training can work effectively.
Train as a Long-Term Investment
Investing in employee training has been shown to improve field resolution times, increase productivity, and improve customer satisfaction. But training is not necessarily a quick, easy, or cheap process, and you certainly don’t want to waste training hours on anyone who doesn’t take the job seriously.
While it may seem like a good idea to train family members who work within the company, you should keep in mind that the most effective employee training will happen to those who are invested in your company for the long term.
A child who just wants to work for you over the summer will be less likely to retain valuable training than one who is being groomed to take over the family business, for example. Keep this in mind when you decide who should be trained and for what roles.
Record Training Process for Future Generations
If you find a training process that works, make sure to record it for the future. Developing a proper training protocol can take time and energy, and you certainly don’t want to have to re-invent the wheel every time you experience seasons of employee turnover.
It’s not necessarily practical to assume that all of the family members currently working for you will stick around indefinitely. Your training processes should be straightforward and easily accessible to every employee, regardless of when they started.
Keep in mind that technology will also change over time, so take advantage of online training materials, apps, and other programs that can grow with your business over time. Technology will be essential for business owners passing on the torch to younger generations who are more tech-savvy than their older counterparts.
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Running a family-owned business can come with many ups and downs. The important thing to remember is that a valuable employee is worth their weight in gold, whether they’re related to you or not.
Make sure that the staff you have working for you want to be there and are committed to helping the business grow. Train your best people first – those who have the most longevity potential and aptitude for the job – and leverage their knowledge to train other employees.
Don’t forget to have a process in place for dealing with potential conflict during training processes and be aware of generational differences during training. Utilize any and all technology to bridge the gap for younger generations, and don’t forget to reward and encourage employees who take their training seriously – even if they’re family.
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