HR challenges under family business

Published: March 18, 2018

KARACHI: ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’, a popular idiom proves its worth in multi-faceted avenues. It presses best when we experience change management in family-owned businesses in this era of perfect competition. There, the bloodline and their decisions most of the time cost opportunities at the market place and sometimes they do lose valuable talent.

This serves as the biggest challenge for human resource (HR) professionals at these organisations. They say that change management should be dealt like a project thus project management should be responsible for it. I differ from this concept. Actually the major difference between project management and change management is the ‘human’ factor involvement. This is where the change process needs to be led by business leaders and HR is one of the major stakeholders in the process.

In Pakistan, where family-driven businesses are hoping to emerge as corporates, one major challenge for any HR professional is to drive the mindset of typical family business owner. Amongst many of them, few blood streams are dominant in certain geographic locations across Pakistan and thus, portray significant and typical characteristics. Now a modern-day HR professional faces dilemmas in managing these traits. As these are personality-driven practices and when the HR professional tries to engage them in the change management process by enabling them through systematic approach, they either fail miserably or find it hard to migrate top management from ‘mind-set to mind-growth’.

Over the years, I have experienced this. I have found that to a ‘typical saith (owner)’ systematic and modern approach to management, organisational HR, structures and resources is just like a high beam flashed straight into their eyes from which they are unable to see anything, and in the process they turn their defensive mode on for every singular intervention. There are, however, exceptions but very few. In the course of this array, they tend to lose confidence of their talented employees, resulting low performance and high outflows both in terms of financials and market share.

They say ‘bird born in a cage thinks flying is an illness’, and this sums the challenge faced by HR professionals operating in family businesses across Pakistan.

Muhammad Rehan

Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2018.

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