The ongoing debate about businesses moving out of California rages on, with business groups pointing to the number of headquarters moving out of California and many of our politicians pointing to California’s rank as the fifth-largest economy in the world with tech start-ups still growing.Most family businesses have many key performance indicators (KPIs) they use to measure their success, and well-managed companies focus on the critical few KPIs that will present a major issue for the business if they turn down.
Unfortunately, besides their poll numbers and fundraising for future elections, many politicians don’t seem to focus on critical indicators. But one irrefutable negative indicator that they should be watching and start doing something about is the loss of a congressional seat. Our politicians proudly boast that legislation passed in California will be the lead for the rest of the country, but for the first time in 171 years, California’s political voice is getting a little softer as our population actually decreased in 2020.
Most family businesses try to ensure a stable, consistent workplace by treating employees like family, and as a result many choose to stay with that company for their entire careers. At my family business, Holt of California, we ask our employees to complete an exit interview if they leave the company. That allows us to look at overall trends and enables us to make adjustments if there appears to be an area where employee satisfaction lags.
Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of employees leaving for other states. In the past two years alone, we have had 30 employees leave the state. All were hardworking, excellent employees and none are easily replaced. While with employees who are leaving our company but staying in California we can modify compensation, vacation and other benefits to get them to stay or come back, there is little we can do to convince employees who have decided to leave the state to stay. In fact, many employees who left the company but remained in California came back to work for us after discovering the grass is not always greener elsewhere. We have only had one come back from out of state.
Reasons to leave the state vary. Many follow their adult children who moved elsewhere to look for opportunity. But many others leave to improve their own qu
ality of life, citing California’s high cost of living, the homeless crisis and cultural issues. Statistics show that the majority of people moving out are blue-collar families with children who have had enough and see a better future elsewhere. In short, the reason California has always grown is why our population is declining: people see the way to a better life elsewhere.
California’s 1.4 million family businesses employ 7 million Californians. However, the impacts from COVID-19 have created a significant challenge for our members to find enough employees to get the job done. Just look at all the help-wanted banners you see as you drive down the street. It is difficult to find enough new employees to serve our customers and the last thing we need is employees leaving the state for good. Unless corrected, the shrinking workforce that we are seeing will damage California’s ability to continue to maintain that high economic worldwide status we so proudly proclaim as a final measure of our success.
Perhaps our politicians need to develop an exit interview for the productive residents leaving the state and use the information to adjust their policies to encourage people to stay and help family businesses recruit those that left back to the companies and jobs that they once loved.