Is Family Culture a Good Model for Culture in Your Business?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On January 27, 2020

family culture in businessShould You Treat Your Employees Like Family?

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of great culture to the success of a scaling company. Companies without a solid and nurturing culture simply don’t survive. It’s hard to attract and retain the kind of employees you need to scale up your company and keep it growing. The allure of a company that boasts a family-like environment is understandable. But should you treat your employees like family? Is family culture in a business a good model for the culture in your company?

Your Company is Not Your Family

In a recent Forbes article, Denise Lee Yohn makes the argument that trying to run your organization (or even saying that your organization is like a family) can hold you back—and may even backfire. Your company is not your family. And despite the apparent appeal of making everyone feel welcome, at home, and safe—treating employees like family can cause serious problems. Let’s look at a few.

You Don’t Fire Family Members

While there are plenty of stories about dysfunctional families that cut off members, it’s really not the norm. There are times in the course of business when you simply need to let people go for the sake of the business. Sometimes you may simply have the wrong person in place. His or her skills don’t match your needs. You may have other employees who underperform. Those are not the kind of employees you need if you’re trying to scale up your company to be a high-growth company. If you’ve told these individuals that they are “family,” how in the world do you let them go? You’ve created unrealistic expectations on their part. And, you’ve also created a difficult emotional roadblock for yourself.

 You’re Not Offering What Employees Really Want

Businesses are not where people (should) look to meet their emotional needs. Most business leaders and their employees understand this. Businesses need to have a very objective, targeted, and measurable goals. If you’ve done a good job creating your vision and establishing your strategy—and communicating it—your employees know what these goals are.

However, in an attempt to attract good and loyal employees, some business leaders fall into the trap of trying to create a second home. While it’s true that you want to create a great culture and establish an environment in which people are motivated to perform at their best—the best employees aren’t looking for a second home. What are they looking for? A recent Inc. article highlighted what great employees actually want, including:

  • Recognition
  • Flexibility
  • Culture
  • A Path for Growth and Continued Education

Interestingly, LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, showed that 94 percent of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn. And while culture is important, employees aren’t looking for family culture. They are looking for a company that shares their values and has a vision they can buy into. Make your company a place where your employees can thrive, be challenged, be appreciated, and grow. But don’t make a promise—that they’ll be treated like family—you can’t keep.