4 reasons to put your employees first


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Customers always comes first. They’re the most important people. Without them we’re nothing. This is business 101. It’s the first lesson we all learn and, no matter how large or small, it’s the one that drives almost every aspect of our company.

Customers have never been more powerful. They can give us instant feedback on review sites and social media, and they’re more demanding than ever before. Customers today have high expectations and much greater choice. Online shopping and disruptive services have created a culture that is firmly focused on personalisation and customer-centricity.

But what if we turn the ‘customer first’ mantra on its head? Here are four good reasons why you should consider ditching conventional wisdom and putting your employees first.

You need new trust, ideas and innovation to stay ahead

Competition is fierce in every sector. Customers and clients have enormous choice and their buying habits are changing. To compete effectively, you need to draw on the knowledge and experience of every single person in your business. You need new ideas that can help you innovate to stay ahead of your competition.

One way to do this is to put your employees first. Share your thoughts on the business, listen and learn from them and bring them into the decision-making process. For this to work there must be trust on both sides, and right up to the top. In fact, 61% of employees say trust between them and their senior management is very important to job satisfaction, according to the Society for Human Resource Engagement.

This has three immediate effects: First, you’re telling them that you trust and value them. Secondly, you’re giving your employees the permission to voice their ideas about the way the business works and its future direction, and finally, you’re giving them the power to go out and change the way they do things.

You need motivated employees who go the extra mile

Strangely, motivation is not all about money. According to the recruitment firm Hays, 71% of employees would take a pay cut to secure their ideal job. The key here is to ensure that it’s you that’s giving them their ideal job. Employees who know that they are valued, supported and feel part of the drive to grow a company will go to extraordinary lengths on behalf of the business.

Businesses where employees have a shared mission, values and purpose are nine times more likely to have high customer satisfaction, according to a study by LRN. The American Psychological Association found that 91% of workers say they feel motivated to do their best when they have leadership support.

Many large-scale employers like Philip Day, owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, think the same way: “Invest in your employees and the future of your company. Think about the long term and do not get distracted by short-term profits. Your employees and their jobs are more important than anything else.”

You need to retain the best talent to be successful

According to a recent study by the Work Institute, it can cost 33% of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement if an employee leaves, and it can cost up to 150% of a mid-level employees annual salary. But money aside, when you lose a talented employee, you’re losing their experience and skills, the worth of which can be incalculable.

Putting the needs and voices of your employees first can help you retain the best talent. According to The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017, employees who feel their jobs have meaning, or that they are able to make a difference, exhibit greater levels of loyalty. This is especially true when it comes to younger workers.

This does not mean you need to invest in gym memberships, pool tables and wellbeing programmes, though these added-extras are always welcomed. Rather, it means giving them structured autonomy and power, and importantly, encouraging them to feed into your mission, direction and values.

You need to deliver the best possible customer service

When you put your employees first you’re actually improving your levels of customer service and loyalty. According to a study by online software provider Cvent, customer retention rates are 18% higher on average when employees are highly engaged.

Highly engaged employees with the power to enact change have the psychological freedom to provide exceptional personal service. They are not constrained by strict rules governing how they approach each customer, they know they are trusted by the company, and feel able to use their experience and inter-personal skills to adapt to each situation.

This approach to customer service is supported by many of the UK’s leading businesspeople. Andrew Nisbet, the founder of Nisbets, says: “Focus on delivering your customers the best service possible, and most other things will follow. Stay alert, and constantly re-evaluate the basics. Ultimately, trust your team and give them your full support.”

The customer first ethos made sense 10 years ago. But not today. Now we have to react fast, be agile and flexible to stay ahead. We need a constant stream of ideas and we must retain the best talent in the marketplace. Putting your employees first in a time of rapid change makes sense.

Sharon FIshburne
I'm a freelance marketing consultant who specialises in helping SMEs take their businesses to the next level. An expert at marketing strategy, I previously worked at number of the biggest global consultancies, including PwC, advising multinationals on their expansion strategy. I saw the value that smaller local businesses could take from the process too.


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