Growing the family

“The biggest challenge we’ve got today is people.”

Ian Owen, Operations Director, Owens Group

UK family businesses told us that the current challenges they are facing include the economic environment, the need to innovate to keep ahead, the UK’s decision to leave the EU and regulation. Top of the list for our family businesses though is people. Nearly two thirds of UK respondents cited accessing the right skills and capabilities as a major challenge over the next two years. Across many UK markets there is a war for talent. While family businesses may not always be able to match salaries nor offer share incentive schemes, they can offer a more secure, more rewarding working environment where employees feel they are part of an extended family.

“It’s about providing a safe, welcoming and exciting place to work. Somewhere where you can grow and achieve.”

Lana Shaylor, Business Development Director, Shaylor Group

It is crucial that family businesses map the skills they need for their business to continue to deliver their purpose and build their lasting legacy. To recruit a new mix of skills they will need to cast their net widely to attract a more diverse workforce. It may also be time to update recruitment models to make sure they reflect both the growth strategy and values of the business. Ultimately they will need to persuade potential recruits that, along with an attractive and rewarding career path, there are significant benefits to joining the business. Family businesses have a great people track record: loyal workforce, great local reputation and good links into their communities. They need to think carefully how they can use it to their advantage.

Using purpose to attract talent and values to help keep them

“The vast majority of people fall into the category of wanting to work for a company that delivers social benefit as well as making a good profit.”

Mark Beard, Chairman, Beard Construction

88% of our UK participants believe a clear purpose and values make their company a happier place to work. Knowing that the company you work for has ethics and integrity is important, seeing them in action everyday is inspiring.

Many of the businesses we interviewed have significantly lower staff turnover rates than their corporate peers and are benefiting from the loyalty which they themselves have shown their people through difficult times. Whilst it may be tough through an economic downturn to hold onto as many people as possible, family businesses are better resourced to make the most of opportunities as things improve.

At Lignacite, they continued to invest in their business during the last recession while the bigger companies sold off sites. They talked to their people and hung onto as many as they could. Giles De Lotbiniere, Chairman of Lignacite believes this is why they have done so well in the last five years.

People want to work for Castell Howell and they often come through recommendation. They stay because the business looks after them. Very aware of their responsibility, the management team are working hard to make sure Castell Howell are living wage accredited. They’ve increased pay for the lower paid jobs ahead of the management team and reduced hours to bring the rates up. Their policy is to make sure their people are getting a better work-life balance and that benefits everyone.

The workforce at Arthur David Group has grown rapidly and the management team realised that their values were at risk through the transition. They worked with a business coach to develop a new approach to their values and improve the recruitment and training of their people. The result was an improved induction for everyone, helping them to understand their role in putting the customer first. The core values were always there but how Arthur David use them has changed.

A diverse workforce

“To run a successful business you need to employ talented and knowledgeable people who embody the right values. Encouraging diversity is an essential part of the process because through diversity comes innovation.”

Lana Shaylor, Business Development Director, Shaylor Group

A diverse workforce creates more opportunities within any organisation and the tone is set from the top. Whilst we only looked at gender diversity in this survey, it was disappointing that on average only 17% of our UK respondents had women on their boards and surprising that only 19% of the next generation working in the business are women. More work needs to be done as those that embrace this opportunity like Shaylor Group demonstrate the benefits it brings.

Lana Shaylor is very clear, “We are really focused on attracting a more diverse workforce, particularly in regards to women and ethnic minorities. We are proud to currently employ three times the national average of women in construction, but want to help encourage more diversity in the industry as a whole. We have some incredible women within the business with many of these having grown their careers with us.”

Adapting to new worlds of work

Beard Construction use their reputation for decency not only to secure the right employees but also subcontractors. As the construction workforce becomes more flexible, subcontractors are increasingly choosy about who they want to work for. They want to work for organisations that have a reputation for looking after the people that supply them. There are real commercial benefits for a company that is known for looking after its people.

Putting their values into action, Scottish Leather Group realised that some of their people needed additional support so they created well-being supervisor roles. When Arthur David were struggling to keep their customer service teams in the office between 6pm and 12pm, their answer was to introduce home working. This has helped them maintain customer service and keep the best people. It is something they are keen to do more and more of as they grow in size and the labour market gets more difficult.

“We have found that the better skilled and more involved employees are, the better the result, whether that’s in product quality or financial, and a lot of effort goes into that now.”

James Lang, Director of Scottish Leather Group

What should you do next?

Think different

New markets, new channels, new products, new customers = new types of people. Does your brand help or hinder?

Make the first move

Approach potential talent rather than waiting for applications especially for non traditional and technical roles needed in a digital world.

First impressions count

Does your induction reflect your business? How quickly do new recruits meet the management team? Do your people understand the whole business and where they fit into that picture? Do they get to meet other parts of the business?

Future plans

Are you developing your people for now or for the future? Is your people plan fit for a digital world?

Apply your purpose to the places your people live and work

Explore the opportunity to build closer links with the community, buy local and get involved in local projects where your expertise counts.


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Contact us

Hannah Harris

Hannah Harris

UK Family Business Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 7764 958 585