Applying a Customer-Centric Mindset To Employee Retention


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“The customer is always right.” This phrase, popularized by successful retailers in the early 1900s, has been a guiding principle for many organizations over the last century. Some have disagreed with this statement, saying it gives customers license to be difficult and can put workers in uncomfortable positions at times, but at its core, the goal of this statement is to provide customers with a positive experience.

To this end, many companies are increasing their focus on customer-centric strategies with a strong drive to keep the customer at the center of their core philosophy. And while B2B and B2C companies have been the most visible group embracing customer-centricity, nearly 2,600 academic articles have been written on the topic over the last decade — a clear indication that interest in the concept is growing in other circles as well.

Countless studies demonstrate the positive impact of customer centricity, from increases in profit to higher customer satisfaction. As a result, companies spend millions of dollars every year on focus groups, surveys, and other market research to better understand their customers and create positive experiences for them.

Conversely, with increasing levels of personalization made possible through technology, customers have come to expect that organizations understand who they are and how their desires align with the organization and its offerings. But while companies have had to become very skilled at understanding their customers, can the same be said for how well they understand their employees?

With the growing focus of understanding our customers, it makes sense for human resource (HR) professionals to look at this area for insight into how to improve interactions with their “customers” — the employees. The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that every time a person leaves an organization, it costs the company approximately six to nine months of that person’s salary to replace them. These costs come in the form of a recruiter’s time, work not being done by the person who has left the organization, and direct costs in terms of uniforms, equipment, and so on.

The bottom line is that turnover is expensive, and with the unemployment rate at an all-time low, it is easy for high performing employees to find opportunities elsewhere, making employee retention strategies more important than ever. So what can HR do to ensure employees have a positive experience within the organization and, as a result, remain on the job for a longer period of time? 

Moving To Employee Centricity

For many years, companies have relied on perks such as flex time, remote work, and office amenities to create a positive experience for employees. While these perks are undoubtedly appreciated, today’s employees are looking for more in terms of development and personal growth. HR practices that go beyond offering perks to understanding human motivation and behavior are most likely to succeed in creating a positive and meaningful experience for employees. Here are three strategies to consider.

1. Employee-centric hiring

Hiring the right people in the first place is essential to maintaining a base of satisfied employees within the organization. Selecting individuals that are a good match for the culture of the organization, its management, and the strategic business plan can assist in retaining a solid group of high-performing employees.

At Tenet Healthcare, new nurse graduates complete an online talent assessment at application, where artificial intelligence-based algorithms match candidates to nursing specialties — emergency, surgery — where they are likely to be the best behavioral and cultural fit. Since using this process, Tenet has seen marked decreases in their turnover and increases in performance for new nurse grads.

Leveraging new technologies before bringing employees into the organization to ensure they will be a good fit for the role can create a positive experience for the employee from the start. Making employee-centric selection decisions can result in increased motivation, less turnover, and the creation of a rewarding culture for both the new hire and their co-workers.

2. Employee-centric succession planning

Organizations can also help drive an employee-centric culture by providing employees with a clear career path. Using the same AI-based tools as Tenet, Foot Locker creates an employee-centric strategy through career pathing and succession planning. By understanding an employee’s likelihood of success in future positions and what they can do to develop into those future roles, Foot Locker provides a clear pathway for employees to plan and understand their trajectory through the organization. Career pathing can differentiate an organization from competitors in the labor market and assist in retaining talent.

3. Employee-centric learning and development

Organizations can further establish an employee-centric workplace through tailored learning and development programs. Personalized training can not only help the organization to better address specific employee skill gaps, but it can also create a more positive experience for those employees because training is targeted to their own areas of need rather than areas where they may not need training at all.

Tailored skills-based training is not the only thing that can create a positive experience for employees. Targeted coaching and development designed to address gaps in employee behavioral competencies can also increase the employee-centricity of a culture. By identifying behavioral gaps and delivering content – such as books, courses or personalized coaching – to improve individual employee performance, employees will not spend valuable time being developed in ways irrelevant to their career goals or current position. Optimized learning gives individuals a sense of direction and control over their careers since what they are learning is specifically designed for them.

Companies are operating in a job-seeker’s market — one in which top talent can easily move on to the next opportunity with a different brand. In this marketplace of customer-driven business, organizations should not discount the value of creating positive experiences for their employees. Applying an employee-centric mindset to the company strategy will improve the satisfaction and engagement of workers, leading to stronger performance and overall culture that enriches its employees’ lives and reduces the risk of losing its most valuable asset: its talent.

Jill Strange, Ph.D.
Jill Strange, Ph.D. is VP of HCM Science Applications with Infor Talent Science. She leads a team of data scientists who help organizations optimize talent to achieve business goals through the selection and development of the right people per position. Additionally, she oversees the development of AI-driven human capital management products and processes. Dr. Strange has 15+ years’ experience with talent management strategies and has led efforts for industry, government, and public sector organizations such as Walmart, Kroger, European Commission, and the Department of Defense.


  1. Losing employees is one of the worst incidents for any business. Being equipped with an action plan to retain staff at all costs would benefit any business. Brilliant post detailing what we can do to lessen attrition. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Excellent ideas, and great for setting the stage for employee centricity…even more difficult to achieve than customer-centricity, though inter-related.
    Happy to discuss off line

  3. Let me offer a slightly different perspective. Employee retention is largely an HR-focused mindset. Leading companies focus on employee commitment and the employee experience as a means to generating and delivering customer value.. Their cultures also have a broader landscape, with the common language being built around a base of stakeholder-centricity (rather than customer-centricity or employee-centricity)| This recognizes, per some of the points in your post, that employees, like customers, have a defined journey and life cycle.

  4. Michael, Employee Value Creation and therefore retention are important. Creating employee value gets their commitment. Employee experience is part of employee value.
    The employee journey is a mix of the journey at work and the journey outside which impacts their performance (a sick child, etc.)


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