Hiring your children: Doing it the right way

You have a business, and you need employees. You have children, perhaps adult or teenage, who need a job. Seems like a logical connection, doesn’t it?

It isn’t unusual for business owners to hire their children, but care should be taken to help it be a positive experience for everyone concerned – the parent, the child and the other employees in your company.

father looking at son

Hiring anyone should be a deliberate process, but hiring adult children takes more care. Here are the steps. But keep in mind: Your child and your business will be better off if your child works up to five years outside of your business.

Step 1: Be clear on the job to be done. We usually hire a new employee because we have a job or task that needs attention. Understanding the reason for the job helps you be more clear on the qualifications for doing the job successfully.

Your children deserve the same clarity. If, as happens sometimes, you’re “creating” a job for your child, think it through before moving forward. He or she will have to have tasks to attend to, results to achieve. Decide what those are before bringing your child on board.

Step 2: Evaluate the skills being brought to the job. Once you know what the job is, you can make a list of the skills or experience that would be helpful in accomplishing the job. Then, you should think about whether or not your child has those skills.

Don’t make assumptions. It’s easy for parents to have a blind side when it comes to their children. Try to objectively review the skills and experience your child brings to the job. Are they a good fit to the needs? Could additional training be provided that would make success more likely?

Don’t set your children up to fail by throwing them into a job not suited to the knowledge and experiences they have.

Step 3: Share expectations with your child. Most employees want to do a good job, and you need to be able to show them what that means. Again, don’t assume your children will know this just because they know you.

Clearly lay out (for the sake of yourself, the child and the employees) where the child fits in the organization and what results or performance is expected. With clear expectations, you can more accurately gauge performance and hold your child accountable.

Step 4: Supervise the employee. Outside work, the person is your child. At work, the person is your employee, and he or she needs to be supervised, coached, trained, evaluated and corrected.

One of the toughest things about employing your children is being able to supervise them effectively. If you are directly supervising them, there will likely be some emotional challenges, trying to separate your home and work roles. If you have a non-family member supervise the child, that person needs to be clear that you don’t expect special treatment for the child.

No employee wants to make the boss angry by writing up his offspring. You put your good employees in a precarious place when you ask them to supervise your children. Be sure you are able to separate yourself from the parent role when dealing with that situation.

Step 5: Promote the employee. You may be bringing your children into your business because you hope they will take over one day. For that to happen, you’ll likely need to grow them through the business so that they learn the various pieces of the puzzle. That will sometimes mean that other employees who hoped for a promotion will be passed over.

There’s no easy way to deal with this, but the child needs to understand the dynamic. He will have people working for him who think it should be the other way around. Family members sometimes have to work twice as hard to be thought half as good by non-family employees.

Teach your children that the relationship might help you get the position, but it won’t mean automatic respect. They have to earn that by being fair and being very good at what they do.

If you’re hoping to have your children work in the business, understand that there will be challenges. Do your best to maintain your objectivity and to hold them accountable like everyone else. With the right opportunities and coaching, they might turn out to be stars.