Why a Company Can be like a Family

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Summary: Respecting employees and including them in the organization can improve teamwork and business performance.

Key Take Aways:

- Employee recognition programs and matching employee values to an organization's can improve results.

- Family is not just a group of individuals in the same space, it is more about shared values.

Sir Richard Branson posted a short article on LinkedIn about treating employees like family members, "Colleagues should take care of each other, have fun, celebrate success, learn by failure, look for reasons to praise not to criticise, communicate freely and respect each other."

He said some CEOs talk about treating their employees that way, but some may fall short of  actually doing it. In particular, Branson was emphasizing the importance of including everyone in an organization because it helps with teamwork, and teamwork is very important for an organization's success. The example he submitted is the Virgin Galactic start-up which is currently focused on developing commercial space travel.

There were nearly 1,000 comments in reaction to his post, and many are in agreement. Some also pointed out that family-run businesses can be challenging places to work - perhaps even more so at times than non-family operated ones.

One of the common sentiments expressed in the many comments was that respect for your co-workers is very important, as is including everyone. (It is worth mentioning some biological families don't practice these values.) So 'family' in Branson's post seems to mean the kind of fellowship that has a focus on shared values. Research supports his view. For example, a recent survey found employee recognition can increase business results dramatically.

One of the hiring practices at Zappos, a Tony Hsieh company, is to find out what an applicant's values are to see if they are in alignment with the company's. If they are not, the applicant will most likely not be hired. This strategy helps maintain a company culture where employees can experience a sense of unity or connectedness that is similar to working in a supportive family.

In the FAQs section of the Delivering Happiness website, Hsieh explained a core component of the Zappos approach to company culture:

Q: What do you believe is the best way to have employees live their organization’s core values?

A: The easiest way is to simply hire employees whose personal values already match the organization’s core values. Then you don’t have to train them to live a different set of values.

So one can see that both Branson and Hsieh are talking about a similar approach to achieving the same kind of company culture of cohesiveness, and business success.


Born as a book, Delivering Happiness is now a culture coachsultancy and a movement on a mission to inspire passion + purpose in workplaces around the world.

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Jake Richardson

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