The issue of hiring friends and family is sure to divide HR practitioners. From a cost saving point of view, the benefits of slashing recruitment expenses are obvious. Yet other more insidious costs lurk just beneath the surface.
According to one renowned people-management commentator, organisations that allow familial connections to creep in are laying the foundations of a toxic work culture. “Organisations that allow nepotism to occur end up with a culture where no one really trusts each other. Fairness becomes inferior to favouritism,” James Adonis wrote in his Sydney Morning Herald blog. Adonis added that one doesn’t have to look far to see cracks in the notion. He questioned what happens when the employee most suitable for a promotion also happens to be the boss’ best friend or relative.“How can the worthy appointment be portrayed as anything but nepotism?” he questioned.
Yet not all thought leaders believe that hiring friends and family is a straight up HR no-no. Eric Herrenkohl, author of How to Hire A-Players said that in the search for top talent, A-players can come from all sorts of different sources and discounting potential talent from one’s own circle is unnecessary. Instead, the catch is ensuring the working relationship is treated the same way as any other. He said it is paramount to define roles and responsibilities before making any hiring decisions. “State, up front, how you will exit this working relationship if things don’t work out. Handled right, strong people with personal ties to you can be the foundation of a fantastic team,” Herrenkohl said.
It seems the real test is in just how transparent the hiring process is to relevant stakeholders. When HR follows a transparent hiring process to the letter, promotional decisions are less likely to be perceived as preferential treatment by the employees without a personal connection to the hiring team. What’s more, all stakeholders can be confident that the appropriate merit-based procedures were followed.
The key pros and cons
You may not need to do a background check
You have an idea of whether or not they’re lying on their resume
You already know if their personality and values are likely to mesh with the organisational culture
You have an idea of their reliability
Their personal references are easier to verify
Monetary discussions can be awkward
Performance issues and terminations can be infinitely harder
Friends and family may assume ‘special privileges’ and take advantage of your connection
Friends and family may unintentionally undermine your authority in front of other employees by not taking you seriously
Entire days can be lost agonising over feelings, emotions, and issues that otherwise would not have come into play
Employers must approve sick leave transfers
Keep chatting, it’s effective for networking
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