Employees First

Who comes first – your customers or your employees?

Who is most important to your business? Who comes first – your customers or your employees?

Many business owners will read that and wonder if it’s a trick question. Of course the customer comes first. The customer has always come first. Without them I don’t have a business.

Recently there has been what some are calling a “management model innovation”, that is leading to some high profile success stories, based on the mantra “Employees first, customers second”

Gary Hamel, author and co-founder of the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) is making the case for reinventing management for the 21st century and in this presentation cited CEO of HCL Technologies, Vineet Nayar, as an example of this innovation.

“An Indian company, an IT services company, one of the fastest growing and most progressive IT services in the world. Tens of thousands of employees and the whole management model is built on the principle of reverse accountability.”

“Let me give you [an example of] a few things they are doing. This is a place where every employee rates their boss and their boss’s boss and all the ratings are published online. When it came to updating and reviewing their strategy they took all their “secret” corporate strategies and distributed it out across the employees. 8,000 people got involved with the chance to comment on and review their strategy.”

“People holding their managers accountable. Are you really helping me succeed in my job? And the reason this company thinks it’s so important is because in that business they think that all of the value is created at the interface between the employee and the customer.”

This business strategy is based on the principle that “unless I take care of my employees they’re not going to do the right thing for you.”. This is often overlooked by many business owners.

Do you treat your employees the best way you can? Are you making sure they can achieve the objectives set and succeed in their role? Things such as providing fair pay, reasonable working hours, great equipment and tools and so on. You only have to look at the likes of Apple, Google and Zappos, where their employees love coming to work each day, to see what a difference this can have within an organisation.

Chief Executive Customer

On the other side of the fence is a move towards a CEC (Chief Executive Customer). Corporations such as IBM are advocating this idea of CEC, to turn the hierarchical thinking of the CEO at the top of the organisation to the customer at the top of the organisation.

Earlier this year they released a new advert which reflects this philosophy;

Combined with IBM’s data analysis products and services they believe that the future of business innovation lies in the ability to measure and monitor every action that a customer is taking to better understand preferences and behavior. The customer come first.

What do you think of these two schools of thought and which will/have you incorporated into your business?


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