Skip to main content

Edition 112 – The Ideal Employee

In my opinion, when you talk about an ideal employee in your family business, for the great bulk of your team, you’re really boiling it down to whether or not they have the following two characteristics:

  1. Skills.
  2. Engagement.

I know there are plenty of people that will disagree with me on this and argue there are plenty of other qualities that are, and should be, taken into consideration. To those of you, I’m happy to debate you on them anywhere, anytime. However, my experience of working with family businesses for the past 30 years has seen most owners and managers ask these two simple questions of their employees:

  1. Can the employee do the job?
  2. Is that employee committed to the business and to their role in it?

With that in mind, in the work that I’ve been carrying out with my clients over the past year or so, we’ve focussed on the following:

 +  Ideal  Technician
 –  Trainable  Dead Weight

In the lower right quadrant, the employee that neither has the skills, nor is engaged in the business is a complete dead weight. The business is better off without them, though it never ceases to amaze me how many family businesses continue to retain dead weights.

In the lower left quadrant, you have an employee that doesn’t have the skills, but is as keen as mustard to learn them. They’re generally fast learners, eager listeners and the ones that start early and stay later, understanding that as they develop their skills, they develop their opportunities. They’re on the road to ideal.

In the upper right quadrant, the employee has the skills, but is totally disengaged from the business. This type of employee presents a double edged sword for most businesses. They can do the work, but at best, are disinterested. At worst, they undermine the management team of the business as their sniping from the background about the business, other staff or clients can create monstrous headaches.

As the owner or manager of a family business, you need to manage these people very carefully. I once employed someone who was technically excellent, but whose behaviour was poor. When the skills started to dip and stupid errors started to appear, it brought into focus how poor my own management abilities were at that time by not dealing with their lack of engagement. Thankfully, I tidied my act up and before too long, that employee exited the business.

In the upper left quadrant is our ideal employee – someone who has the skills and is committed to the business and the management team. If you have employees in your business at this level, it enables you to make decisions around:

  1. Growth
  2. Leadership.
  3. Succession.
  4. Product development.
  5. Process improvement.
  6. Training.
  7. Recruiting additional staff.

Interestingly, in the work that I have been carrying out with my clients, very few have ideal employees now – but many of them have future ideal employees sitting inside the business.  The keys to moving your employees into the ideal quadrant are:

  1. Identify who those potential ideal employees are.
  2. Communicate with them your observations and your future plans – in a formal setting.
  3. Seek their commitment to progress from whatever quadrant they are sitting in now to the ideal employee quadrant.
  4. Develop a plan for their development.
  5. Implement it.

This Week’s Tip

“As far as I am concerned, if you have employees inside your family business, that are not ideal, not trainable or not showing ideal tendencies, they have forfeited the right to have their future invested in by you. Which begs the question, why are they still working for you?.”