Perspectives from ISB

How to attract, select and retain talent is a challenge for both family and nonfamily businesses but even more so in family businesses because of the complexity of the intertwined relationship between the family and the business systems. Millennials have surpassed the previous generation in the workforce in the United States. Do businesses need to pay special attention to millennials in their workforce and should they be more concerned about adjusting their human resources practices than their nonfamily counterparts?

Millennials often are characterized as narcissistic, unwilling to commit fully to work, disrespectful of authority, lack focus and have a sense of entitlement. They are very attuned to technology, and for them, the internet is as important as oxygen.

Motivations of millennials in terms of their duty, persistence and reward may need some adaptation for family businesses to attract, select and retain them as part of their workforce. Some changes are easier given that they can take advantage of characteristics family businesses already have and some others need some redirecting efforts. These are some suggestions:

Connect family values to organizational goals: Reports show that although the values of millennials are not necessarily different from previous generations, their attitude at the workplace is different. Family businesses care about their values and their culture, so they need to make sure values are linked to what they are pursuing to have a highly engaged millennial workforce with a clear line of sight.

Communicate organizational goals and frame individual contributions to their attainment: This is costly and difficult, but the more explicit each worker’s contributions are the more likely he/she will be satisfied with the job and be more committed to the business in the longer run.

Embrace flexibility as a policy not as an individual case effort: Family businesses are flexible, and they usually adapt when either a family or nonfamily employee needs them to. They must be creative in developing policies regarding employee mobility, and family and work models.

Create teams where millennials can feel engaged if the supervisor treats him/her openly and fairly regarding growth and promotion: Personal and online discussions, (texting included) where millennials receive feedback and bosses discuss opportunities with them need to be frequent.

Develop a challenging work environment in which objectives and goals are clear and not so many tasks or duties: Family businesses are proud of their work environment, and that is positive for others, but they need to get creative in assigning meaningful goals. If challenged, millennials will deliver.

Family businesses have an opportunity to adapt and change to recruit and hire the most talented of this generation in their workforce.

Source: Gonzalez, Ana., March 2, 2018,

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