Are Employees Your Most Important Customers?

Are Employees Your Most Important Customers?

There was a time when employees were a commodity. That time is long gone. Today, it is better to think of employees as your best customers. The consequences of having loyal, contented employees who are believers cannot be understated. At work they are more productive and efficient and they contribute to an environment of teamwork and community. Away from work, they are often a media outlet broadcasting to their friends and followers about the company they work for.

Unfortunately, this is overlooked by too many companies. An example:

We were recently asked to conduct remedial harassment training of one of the owners of a restaurant chain. He had become affectionate with employees to the point where the employees were becoming uncomfortable around him. Eventually, one of the employees spoke up. The company’s first response was to instruct the owner not to visit the location where the complaining employee worked. This didn’t solve the problem, it didn’t even address the problem. Finally, as fears were mounting about a lawsuit and employee grumbling grew louder, they finally decided to deal with the problem head-on.

When there is a problem in the workplace it is more than a warning sign. It’s also an opportunity. Turn away and risk the consequences of the problem become time consuming, expensive and debilitating. You have an opportunity to build loyalty and trust. 

Most employees needs are pretty simple. They want to know they’re going to get paid. They want to be treated fairly. They want to be appreciated. And, they want to be valued by their employer. If the restaurant employer had dealt with the problem immediately and forthrightly the opportunity would have been seized. All of the employees, not just the employee who spoke up, would have recognized immediately that they were valued would be treated fairly.  But, because of the delay, the employer now must rebuild trust and respect. That will take time, maybe a long time. No one knows the true cost to the company for all of this. It’s probably unquantifiable. But you can be certain that it will be a lot more than the fees paid to the human resources consultant.

There is a tether between the company and the employee. While usually not fragile, it is subject to wear and tear. It is true that the employee bears some of the responsibility for maintaining the tether, that is not the focus of this piece. Every time the tether is frayed, value is lost to the company and value is lost to the employees.

Take a look at the company’s interactions with employees. What are the key times when you need to intervene and invest in the employee. When is it important to implement customer service standards for employees? Your company probably has built in recognition of the value of customer service. Perhaps, those same standard should be applied towards your number one customer: your employees.

Human resources is not a cost center. It is a profit center. Staying aware of employee needs and responding to workplace issues with clarity and consistency (protecting the tether) is as important as any of the metrics of performance. And, it will be returned to the company in productive, efficient employees who are happy to be there.