Thou Shall Put Employees First

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Employees are a company’s greatest asset – they’re your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission.- Anne Mulcahy

We have all heard the “Employee first, customer second” philosophy of growing and maintaining a flourishing business. I thought I would provide some concrete reasons why business leaders would want to live and breath this mindset into their organizations.

I do have one side note: Smart business leaders are really working with both stakeholders simultaneously, focusing on building trust, rapport and alliances with both. So, the true meaning of this approach is not to stop answering your customers’ phone calls or meeting their needs until you get your relationship with your employees “just right.”  It is meant to signal to internal and external customers alike that you understand that you cannot give what you do not have.

Here are four concrete reasons organizations should adopt this philosophy as one of their greatest commandments:

1. They will go the extra mile.

I have found that employees who feel cared for and those who feel empowered to make decisions that benefit customers and the organization are much more likely to go the extra mile for customers and for the business.

I once worked with a team member who had been at the organization for 20 years. This particular person came in at 6:30 am every morning and would often be found leaving around the same time at night. She just would not leave until customers were satisfied and her job had been done. One clear example of going the extra mile was a time when a large customer’s order was about to ship and she realized that it was inaccurate. She did not spend a lot of time figuring out who did it or placing blame elsewhere. (We did this after solving the immediate issue) She took ownership for the result and decided to come in on a weekend to work with the shipping department to make sure the correct order was shipped to the customer.

She did not walk away until she had a satisfied, loyal customer.

An organization cannot buy this type of commitment to excellence. It has to be earned.

2. They are a more affordable source of promotion.

One thing I know for sure. I would be a lot less likely to “talk up” a current employer if I did not feel like the leaders cared about me, by investing resources in my development, by ensuring I had a voice and a way to be a part of organizational change. Many would have a hard time being the cheerleader for a company that shuts down input, treats them like a number and fails to recognize their efforts.

The flip side of this is that putting the employee first ensures any organization a more affordable source of promotion to anyone who wants to listen. Employees who are deeply engaged in the work they do usually spread the news to customers, friends, family and anyone else who will listen. Harness this continuous energy!

3. They reproduce other great employees.

Do you think that a 5-star employee is going to refer a 2-star employee to your organization?

Not very likely.

Employees who have worked for a significant period of time for an organization, and who take ownership in the success of the organization usually refer like-minded people to open positions. If the organization takes care of its people, those same people will reach down deep to refer their most experienced and respected friends and former colleagues to fill key positions in the organization. These referrals are a reflection of the employees deeper commitment to the company, its brand and its culture. Never underestimate the value of the “Employee First” philosophy in strengthening your talent acquisition strategy.

4. They sell more stuff.

Much has been written about how engaged and loyal employees will drive increased revenues for an organization. This is certainly not a new concept, but I think the real question should be why?

We can all venture to guess the reasons why this is, but I would propose that the reason is very basic. It think it really stems from the notion of reciprocity.

Reciprocity is the quality or state of being reciprocal : mutual dependence, action, or influence- Merriam Webster Dictionary

You see, an employee who feels as though his/her employer has provided all of the tangible and intangible benefits that makes the relationship one of trust and co-creation tends to want to reciprocate. That employee may then act in a way, like selling more goods and services (even if this is not his/her role) to “return the favor.” This is what leads to mutual dependence or influence.

Organizations should want to create this type of feeling in their employees. Once you have, the sky is the limit!

There are many more reasons why organizations should adopt the Employee First, Customer Second philosophy. These were top of mind for me. In the end, considering the very unique relationship that exists between an organization and its employees means that putting employees first is just the right thing to do in every situation. Customers will sense this mutual commitment and this affects their loyalty to the organization as well.

Thank you for reading this post. I get really excited talking and writing about this topic. If you found it of interest, please do Share it with other who might benefit. I am always open to feedback as well.

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