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Family businesses are highly regarded

Owner-managed enterprises are considered attractive employers

Family businesses play an indispensable role in the Swiss economy, with approximately 85% of all companies in the country being owner-managed. We have explored what makes them particularly appealing as employers by interviewing candidates with whom we have been in contact during recruitment processes. In this regard, we would like to share the reasons cited by candidates for seeking employment in family businesses, along with our personal experiences.

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Photo by Jon Tyson, Unsplash

Diverse Challenges

The contemporary business landscape is constantly evolving, marked by reorganizations, acquisitions, and the impact of factors such as artificial intelligence, New Work, and skilled labor shortages, to name a few. Companies must grapple with and respond to these challenges promptly. To effectively address these issues, every company must have a forward-thinking HR strategy in these areas. In times of increasing difficulty in attracting highly qualified employees with specific expertise, family businesses are gaining attractiveness for candidates due to the criteria outlined below.

 Long-term Thinking and Management

Non-listed family businesses in the SME sector generally represent a long-term corporate strategy, a high equity ratio, and a clear set of values. Thanks to high equity ratios, they are less dependent on external creditors and more self-determined in decision-making. This independence allows them to invest more rapidly in innovations during and after crises, ensuring sustainable growth. Even if listed on the stock exchange, owner-managed family businesses are generally less driven by quarterly pressures than large corporations. In economically turbulent times, continuity and stability become even more critical factors in choosing a future employer. Often, it is the owners who, over generations, have shaped the company’s history and successfully navigated the challenging balance between tradition and innovation with dedication, foresight, and pragmatism. Such behaviors and approaches are highly valued by employees today, closely linked to considerations of job security.

Sustainability

Sustainability is also becoming increasingly important in deciding whether to work for an employer. Family businesses, thinking across generations, usually prioritize sustainable business practices. Continuous business policies, short decision-making paths, and sensible resource utilization are crucial. CEOs, on average, remain in their positions for six to nine years; in non-family businesses, this duration is often only four years or less. The results of consistent corporate governance are evident in high product quality and strong customer loyalty, positively impacting business development.

Appreciation

Appreciation in everyday work is unfortunately still too infrequent, according to numerous feedback from candidates. It is highly valued when there is openness to new ideas, praise for good work, and support for employee development. This demonstrates interest, something employees want to feel. Engaging in a well-led dialogue and providing regular feedback are essential for the continuous development of both the company and its employees. Family businesses excel in this aspect, reflected in the longer tenure of employees in the company. Milestones like 10- and 20-year anniversaries are not uncommon, where employees are duly recognized. This also highlights that experienced employees are still in demand. A culture of appreciation is usually deeply ingrained in the DNA of family businesses, expressed in various forms beyond purely monetary aspects.

Thorough Recruitment Processes

In our collaboration with family businesses, we have observed that recruitment processes are conducted with great care. This is regularly confirmed by applicants. Before filling a position, whether newly created or to be reoccupied, there is an initial assessment of whether there is a valid internal successor. If not, a detailed profile of the desired candidate is developed, often relying on our expertise during the briefing. This process creates a comprehensive and clear understanding of the challenges, position, and sought-after personality. Identifying suitable candidates becomes much more effective. In candidate presentations, we also observe that interviewers from the company side are well-prepared, giving full attention to the candidates and taking sufficient time for discussions. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and we have witnessed various behaviors during interviews. From distracted smartphone use to concentrated laptop work or abrupt entrances and exits by future supervisors. Both employers and candidates should adhere to the principle: “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Prompt Response Times

While recruitment processes at large corporations can drag on for months, family businesses are typically faster and respond promptly. This ensures that the crucial momentum in hiring is maintained throughout the entire process. Even in the case of later rejection, a swift process creates a positive perception of the company regarding efficient processes and transparent communication. Successful employer branding achieves its goal.

Collaborative Partnership

What adds to the positive experience of working with family businesses is that the partnerships are often long-term collaborations. Once trust is established, owner-managed companies are usually loyal after successful placements. Through each new search, we gain a deeper understanding of the company and its culture, making a valuable contribution to sustainable placements.

Risks and Outlook

Despite all the mentioned advantages of family businesses, it is essential to acknowledge potential risks. Conflicts among owners and private family matters can influence and burden the company. Unclear succession arrangements or imminent generational shifts may bring uncertainties. Nevertheless, owner-managed family businesses remain highly sought after by job seekers, and this trend is on the rise.

If you would like to discuss family businesses and/or succession solutions in owner-managed enterprises with us, please feel free to contact us
(044 250 88 66 or s.byland@ema-partners.ch).