This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

November 3, 2004

Parents Working for Kids

For generations, young people entering the workforce worked for their parents. In most cases, these situations involved some sort of family business. In other arrangements, entry-level workers would start at jobs at the same place of employment where their father or mother worked. This process was a good way to get started in a career, especially when mobility and opportunity were factors influencing available employment.

As people starting or growing their careers had more choices, family connections became less important. Applicants sought---and found---jobs with companies where there was no family relationship at all. Now the pendulum has swung back in the other direction, and family connections are again becoming a part of the employment picture. This time, however, it is the older generation that is working for the younger generation. Parents, aunts and uncles, and other members of the older generations are increasingly working for their children.

Business leaders are wise to hire their parents, in many cases, particularly if their elders have experience in their type of work. The senior family members have knowledge, wisdom, expertise, experience, and a vested interest in seeing the business achieve a high level of success. Parents have served as coaches for their kids for years, so the working relationships are not hard to design and manage.

As business owners get older, they often bring their sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, into the business. The younger generation eventually inherits the company and everyone lives happily ever after. The parents turn over operations to the kids and retire to some distant location with palm trees. That is the old model. The new model is that the parents relinquish the strategic decision-making responsibility much earlier, and don't leave. Forget the sand and the palm trees; the older generation of today and tomorrow is more interested in remaining active with the organization, but in a different role. Some elders simply want to return to the work they were doing before they became boss. Others want to play more of an advisory or specialty role.

This transition fits nicely into the move toward phased retirement.

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