What? DON’T put Customers First?

Whew!! That’s a heavy statement. Ever since the Total Quality movement hit the United States big-time in the 1980’s and continued into the 1990’s, business has been focusing on “customers come first”, “customer satisfaction is the number one priority” and customer service divisions have exploded.

Well, if the customers don’t come first, who does? EMPLOYEES DO! Think about it this way. If you take care of your employees and they are satisfied, then your customers will be satisfied too! Your employees, whether you own the business or manage a department, are the most valuable asset a company has!! The solutions to your business problems, the creativity needed to delight your customers with exceptional products and services all lie within your employees!!

So we ask you to consider what kind of workforce are you creating? One where people come to work “for a paycheck”, do what they have to do to get by, feeling totally unempowered to change anything??? — OR — one where all people are valued for the skills they bring to the table, where solutions to problems and new ideas are generated collaboratively and where people do meaningful work and love what they do???

Now that the unemployment rate is on the rise, the good news is – your current employees might be more prone to stick around for a while!! But do not dismiss the fact that they want to feel valued and appreciated for their contribution while “sticking around”. Stop and think for a minute. Ask yourself “why would people want to work for my company (or department)?” Give them a good reason to!!

Here are some tips on how to put your employees first:

  • Ask your staff to write personal “mission statements” describing their professional ambitions and goals. It’s a good way to find out where your employees want to go and collaborate on how they plan to get there. This shows you care about them and their well-being way beyond them just doing a “job”.
  • Involve your employees in the company’s problems. Develop a list and then do brainstorming on what need to happen to resolve the problems. ASK them what they would do if they were the owners or in your shoes! I guarantee you they will have ideas and answers!!
  • PRAISE THEM – and often!! Make “employee praise and thanks” part of your weekly “to do” list. Create a weekly list and cross off their names as you praise them. I had a colleague that ran a department of 350 people. Each week he called 6 people whom he had heard had done exceptional work. At first, the recipients of his praise were shocked that he’d actually call them. Later, when he slacked off on calling, people complained and he started in back up at the first of the year. He made their importance and contribution to the company “real”.
  • Create a safe environment where the truth can be told and problems dealt with honestly — it is then that real solutions can be created.

In these lean times it is now necessary to create a climate where goals are understood and agreed to, creativity flourishes, people are empowered and find meaning in their work, and your workplace is the one to work for — all to the benefit of your bottom line. The wave of the future is that the companies that put employees first are the ones that will survive well into the 21st century.