Family businesses form a significant and vital part of our economy. In fact, research by the Institute of Family Businesses (IFB) shows that, in 2015, there were 4.7 million families in business in the UK, and the sector contributed£460 billion to the UK’s GDP in 2016-17.
Family firms experience unique issues, however, and face specific challenges that have the potential to derail plans from an early stage. So how can these be anticipated and dealt with successfully? Here are some of the dos and don’ts when setting up a family business.
Do keep communications open
It is important to operate a culture of open communication within the business so that all employees understand the working relationships and different levels of responsibility held by members of the family.
Transparency is key in this respect and helps to prevent resentment from non-family employees. If it is believed that family members have been promoted purely because of their status rather than on merit, for example, the situation will lower morale and could lead to a high turnover of staff.
Keeping employees engaged and feeling included in the growth of the business encourages loyalty, and creates a trusting and supportive working environment for all.
Do put in place formal documents and agreements
At the startup stage families tend to work well together for the good of the business, with formal agreements often being overlooked or thought unnecessary. In many ways it is even more important for family firms to formally document business issues such as leadership structure, and salary rates, given the ease with which childhood roles or divisive family dynamics can be readopted.
Formal documents and agreements provide a strong framework with which to handle disputes. They ensure fair and accurate sharing of profits and eliminate the possibility of ambiguity in certain situations.
Defining the way in which disputes will be handled is also valuable in itself. This is a sensitive area for family businesses, and it is likely that to obtain objectivity, input from an independent professional will be required in drafting the documents.
Do promote and nurture family values
The family name, in conjunction with family values, often provides a strong and unique foundation for a business, and can offer a distinct advantage over other enterprises. The family’s inherent interest in making the business a success, simply because it is a family firm, is powerful and helps to determine their long-term guiding strategies.
This common purpose also tends to display itself naturally to customers in the form of extra energy, consideration, and attention to detail afforded to them by members of the family – in the interests of ensuring customer satisfaction, but also to encourage the long-term business success.
Do consider succession planning early on
It may seem a little pre-emptive if a family business has just started, but early succession planning is crucial to ensure the business is transferred in a tax-efficient manner when the time comes.
Consideration should also be given to providing formal leadership training to those likely to take over the reins of the business, so they are fully prepared, from a purely practical standpoint, for the challenges ahead.
… And the don’ts
Don’t make it ‘us and them’
Showing favouritism to family members when they are at work will engender bitterness and dissatisfaction amongst employees who are not members of the family. This is a form of discrimination, so it is crucial to praise and criticise all employees equally when appropriate.
Allowing an ‘us and them’ culture to develop creates unrest, reduces motivation amongst non-family employees, and is likely to ultimately result in lowered productivity. Demonstrating fairness should begin at the top, and become a key feature in how the business conducts itself.
Don’t ‘create’ jobs for family members
Paying a member of the family to carry out a job that would not otherwise exist, or placing them in a role for which they are not qualified, is not an effective strategy and can compromise long-term success for family businesses.
Adopt a policy with the business in mind, rather than the employment status of individual relatives. This could include making it clear the possibility of demotion or dismissal exists for all employees if they cannot fulfil the role for which they were taken on.
Don’t let business infringe on personal life
It is easy to allow business issues to seep into personal life, but never more so when it is a family-run firm. This can be a double-edged sword, but by keeping dinner table business discussions to a minimum,it prevents the line being blurred and helps to keep business and home lives fresh.
Separating business and personal issues is a difficult mantra to follow, however – there is a fine line between quickly talking about something that happened at work, and engaging in a drawn-out analysis that should really take place in the working environment.
Don’t rely solely on family advice
Being able to rely on family in the workplace is one thing, but failing to seek independent advice at various key stages is a dangerous strategy. External advisers bring valuable objectivity and are likely to take a broader viewpoint compared with members of the family.
From accountants to legal experts, impartial professional guidance offers a family-run business a broader commercial perspective with no inherent bias or presumptions, and an opportunity to understand current trends or changes in their market.
Starting a family business can be a daunting prospect and one which requires perhaps more delicate management than a ‘standard’ business enterprise. There is much at stake, both in terms of business success and personal relationships between family members, but balancing the needs of all personnel, whether family or not, is key to running a successful family firm.
Jeff Barber is a partner at Selling My Business he specialises in business disposals and acquisitions and has over 30 years of experience.
October furlough changes – what you need to know
By Alan Price, employment law expert and CEO of BrightHR
The Job Retention Scheme is coming to an end on 31 October, and in its final month, there are some significant changes to its funding that employers and employees need to be aware of.
When it was first implemented, the scheme was funded entirely by the government. However, since 1 August, the government has contributed less to the scheme, meaning employers have had to put more of their funds into furloughed staff wages to ensure they continue to earn at least 80% of their salary for the time in which they do not work.
From 1 October, the government will only provide 60% of this payment; employers will need to top up the remaining 20% themselves. They will also need to continue paying employee national insurance and employer pension contributions.
As has been the case since July, furloughed staff can still be asked to return to work on a part-time basis. However, employers need to pay them in full for the hours that they work. They can also be removed from the scheme if the employer deems it necessary, which includes making them redundant.
Once the scheme ends on 31 October, it will be replaced by a new government-funded system of support, the Job Support Scheme, on 1 November. This scheme will be slightly different to the furlough scheme and is designed to support jobs that are not entirely dependent on government funds.
Under the Job Support Scheme, employees will work at least one-third of their normal working hours. The government and the employer will then each provide pay for one-third of the number of hours in which they do not work, meaning all employees on the scheme will receive at least 77% of their normal wages. The government’s contribution will be capped at £697.92 per month.
For example, an employee who normally works five days a week and earns £350 per week. Under the Job Support Scheme, they will work 40% of normal working hours (two days a week). The percentage of hours lost is 60% (worth £210). The employer pays £140 for hours worked, and a further £70 (one-third of hours lost). The government will pay £70 (one-third of hours lost). The employee receives £280 in total per week.
All companies will be eligible to make use of this; however, larger businesses will need to pass specific financial tests. Companies will also not need to have furloughed staff previously.
Employers will be able to claim a reimbursement for employee wages from December 2020 via an online portal.
Turning a Critical Eye on Impersonation Scams
By Mike Kiser, security strategist and evangelist at SailPoint
“The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic.”
— G.K. Chesterton
Impersonation Crime as Art
The recent findings by UK Finance that impersonation scams are up 84 per cent compared to the same period last year shows that criminals have seen the opportunity that Covid-19 has presented over the past six months. Convincing the unwary to hand over financial information and payments requires not only research and creativity, but a large volume of potential targets. Covid-19 has created just such a field ripe for harvest by bad actors.
This is largely due to the acceleration of digital life. As many of us have been subject to stay-at-home orders for the past half year or so, we’ve tried to find various activities to keep us busy. Some have taken up new activities such as baking bread or needlework, others have taken on long-planned renovations to our flats or learned how to garden. These new past times share the benefit of being firmly planted in the real world at a time when almost everything else is an online interaction. Work, social groups, religious and charity organizations—these are all activities and relationships that find their expression in an online video chat or other digital form.
This is a massive cultural change that requires acclimation for the general populace. Depositing a check or booking that next holiday was often something done in person, and the shift to not only “remote work” but also “remote life” has left many susceptible to scams involving impersonation. This is particularly true now that a great deal of personal information is available, granting criminals credibility and enhancing the quality of their “creative artistry” as Chesterton describes it in the quote above.
We Must All Be Critics
But Chesterton is right to point out that if the criminal is the artist, there is a critic that has a role to play as well. If this recent wave of exploitation is to be mitigated, however, the critic cannot merely be the detective. The role of reviewer must also be taken on by each individual. After all, scams involving impersonation are a false narrative created for an audience of one. Know the signs of a criminal “performance” (which are useful not only for impersonation scam, but a wide range of malicious activity). It’s helpful to put this in the vein of reviewing a play or other work of art:
(1) A Surprise Performance
No one goes to a play by accident. They buy tickets in advance and look forward to it for several weeks. They are not surprised when they find themselves in the theatre, and the same should apply for remote interactions. When contacted by a bank, travel agency, or government agency, think about the context. Have you had interactions with them before? Were you expecting them to contact you? If this monologue is unexpected, then be circumspect about the caller and their message.
(2) Emotional Manipulation
One of the goals of criminals will be to generate an emotional reaction to lower your defenses. Great works of art draw out emotion also, but not in glaringly obvious ways—that’s what makes them great art. Rather, they use a subtle word here, a knowing look there. Be on guard for words that seem calculated to draw a strong emotional response from you, paying special attention to words and phrases that seem inelegant or forced. This includes negative feelings like alarm or fright from not having paid a fine or unknown tickets as well as more positive responses such as “winning” an Amazon gift card or a surprise holiday.
(3) Immediate Action Demanded
Finally, great works of art move us, but that change is not often immediate. Many scams involve a demand for an immediate response; these scammers have invested time and effort into building a reasonable backstory all with the goal of you taking action while you’re on the phone with them. Given that the person who contacted you is not at your front door, but rather is talking to you remotely, there’s no immediate need to respond. If there are any warning signs concerning the interaction or you feel uncertain, end the conversation and contact the institution directly to ensure that the message is real. Let the story sit with you and examine it in your mind as you would a great play or novel before deciding to respond.
A Shifted World Requires A Shift in Thinking
Criminals are always seeking creative ways to exploit changes in society and those who might be vulnerable as a result. The first half of 2020 has certainly revealed a new theatre for them to perform the art of theft via impersonation. By developing a finely tuned critical eye and knowing the markers of poorly constructed art, we can begin to review these small scale dramatizations and “close the curtain” on this latest round of malicious activity.
How virtual training is changing the game in remote learning
By Aris Apostolopoulos, Senior Content Writer at TalentLMS and a faithful follower of the eLearning mentality.
Along with the latest leaps in technology, the current pandemic situation has made remote working not just a niche but a necessity. And with it, the need for remote learning has also skyrocketed.
Things are changing fast for most industries: a McKinsey Global Institute research found that, by 2030, some 375 million workers will be required to master new skills. But apart from the practical need for it, continuous learning is also one of the most efficient ways to keep remote workers engaged and productive.
The question then arises: what kind of remote learning should companies be investing in?
Ideally, it should be a type of training that combines the effectiveness of instructor-led training with the flexibility of online learning, to cater to the realities of today’s (and quite possibly tomorrow’s) remote working landscape.
Enter virtual training.
What is virtual training
Virtual training is a broad term that refers to any training that does not take place in a physical environment — rather in a virtual one. This type of training makes use of new technologies, predominantly web and cloud-based, to deliver asynchronous or synchronous learning.
In asynchronous virtual training, learners go through the course (usually modules utilizing a variety of media like videos, PDFs, quizzes, etc.) at their own pace. On the other hand, synchronous virtual learning is virtual instructor-led training (also known as VILT). During VILT, learners attend live classes conducted online via videoconferencing tools such as Zoom. Currently gaining momentum as a delivery method for training, VILT offers the immediacy of instructor-led training — while at the same time it keeps the costs significantly lower and simplifies the organizational side of things compared to traditional, on-site training.
The difference between remote and virtual training
You may have seen these terms used interchangeably to describe any training solutions that take place in online, virtual environs. While that’s not technically wrong, there is a key difference between remote and virtual training.
Remote training refers to a physical distance between a learner and an instructor. This usually requires a training software (like an LMS) that users can log into and attend courses online. Virtual training, originally, only referred to the nature of the delivery method (aka one that takes place in a virtual environment). As such, virtual training could also imply that a learner and an instructor are physically at the same location, utilizing technology to go through virtual scenarios (a popular practice in the sales and customer service industries).
In this post-COVID world we’re living, though, the terms “remote training” and “virtual training,” as well as the term “online training,” have become somewhat synonymous.
Benefits of virtual training
Companies that are considering investing in virtual training have several things to consider. For starters, virtual training (that also implies a physical distance between learner and instructor) adheres to social distancing rules and is much safer for the health and wellbeing of all involved than real-life training.
But what are some of its other benefits?
Virtual, instructor-led training offers a seamless transition from the classroom (or any physical training space) to an online environment. Videoconferencing sessions are particularly comforting to employees who were used to face-to-face interaction. But they are also suitable for the younger generation of employees — whose inherent need for mobility and flexibility means that being able to attend a lecture on their mobile phones makes it less likely to disengage or drop off from training.
A Training Mag survey on graduates of both the virtual and classroom course found that virtual training is equally, if not more, engaging than its real-life equivalent: 86% of virtual training participants rated the experience “just as engaging” or “more engaging than” classroom training. And there is a well-established link between feelings of engagement and information retention: humans tend to learn faster if they find the subject interesting. This is further supported by findings in the same survey, that see participants averaging a score of 90% on a skill mastery test, which is 1% higher than average scores in traditional classroom sessions. So employees will be more engaged and will retain information better during virtual training — 80% of information, to be precise (according to research by Harvard Business Review).
What about other factors besides engagement and information retention?
Cutting back on travel costs is also one of the reasons virtual training is gaining momentum. Booking experts to give lectures on-site involves covering travel costs (and quite possibly accommodation) plus all the administrative costs of organizing a real-life session: seating, stationery, food, and beverages, etc. Taking the learning process online allows companies to scale back on all these costs, and instead invest in the things that will really move the needle, like offering reskilling and upskilling training for their employees.
A TalentLMS survey conducted this year shows that 42% of companies stepped up their reskilling/upskilling training efforts after the coronavirus outbreak.
Virtual training best practices
Like with any new tool or process, virtual training will yield optimal results when best practices are followed. Companies interested in virtual training should consider the following:
The need to cater to learners’ decreasing attention span
Learners can no longer be expected to sit through a 2-hour lecture that doesn’t change modalities frequently. One of the realities of remote working is that employees often multitask — and they may be tempted to do so during a videoconferencing, instructor-led course that drones on for too long. Switching gears frequently by keeping learning segments short and encouraging feedback and conversation in between is key.
The need to decrease screen time
Learner fatigue has become a serious problem, exacerbated by the fact that so much of employees’ time is currently spent in front of computer screens. Keeping virtual training sessions shorter, with breaks in between, combats that phenomenon.
The need for interactivity
We’ve already seen some of the benefits for VILT. However, relying solely on live, video-based learning robs learners from an interactive experience, assigning them to a passive role instead. And yet, interactivity is one of the critical factors that have made classroom learning so useful and practical to humans. Virtual training should therefore comprise different delivery methods, from quizzes and polls to interactive multimedia.
The need for frequent evaluation and data analysis
At the end of the day, a successful virtual training program is one that allows companies to have a clear look at insights regarding learners’ progress. A robust data analysis helps companies identify potential hurdles before they become severe issues and adjust the learning approach accordingly. That’s why investing in the right LMS is crucial to embarking on a successful virtual training journey.
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