Dear CEO: Employees must come first

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In the past five to 10 years, “employee centric” has become a growing buzz word. At first pass, this phrase could conjure up images of young companies that goof off all day, playing ping pong and “working” on an idea that never seems to get off the ground. But I think it’s important for CEOs to consider the value in putting employees first (whether or not they ever have a pool table at their headquarters).

Employees matter for many reasons. There are the obvious: they contribute to projects, they help grow revenue, they deliver services. But what they also do is they touch your customers, day in and day out. They are the first and last impression of your company. When CEOs get distracted by solely making investors happy, there’s an unavoidable erosion of business culture.

Instead of being energized to bring their best ideas to work and feeling like they matter to the wellbeing of the company, employees are at risk of feeling like cogs in a wheel who can be easily pulled out and replaced. These employees become disgruntled, disengaged, their work suffers and they struggle to empathize with customers or provide personal customer. In case it wasn’t obvious, these are not the employees you want serving customers.

Don’t believe me? Look at the airline industry. In recent years, they’ve felt a tremendous squeeze around employee tension after long stand-offs around employee pensions and fair pay. Their employees do so much to impact and shape the customer experience – and when it doesn’t go well, it gets broadcast in very public ways. It would be foolish for CEOs outside the industry to consider themselves exempt from the public eye when it comes to employee wellbeing.

Instead of waiting around for near-detrimental exposure like the airline industry, CEOs can take corrective action now. If employee-centric policies aren’t already in place, get started as soon as possible. You don’t have to offer dog-sitting services in order to create culture—in fact, your employees probably have much more creative ideas on how to help the company culture flourish, so start by listening to them. Find out what it would take to make sure your company is one where they feel included and energized by the company mission. With the right resources, you can build a company that has a vibrant culture but also has clear expectations around accountability.

Need some inspiration? Check out this article and read about how Chevron, Adobe, Facebook and more are leading the way in employee centric workplaces. Tell me what you think – does your company put employees first?

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What do you think makes a company employee-focused? Is it the perks? Flexible schedules? Cool office? This week’s blog looks at why employees matter (hint: unhappy employees will eventually translate to unhappy customers).

Tell me what you think!