A lot is written about how to build a customer-centric culture, but I’d like to focus on an employee-centric culture in this post. And yes, employee focus is part of a customer-centric culture, but let’s zoom in on the employee experience here.
So that there’s no confusion, perhaps we should just call it people-centric, to encompass all humans – customers and employees – as Bob Chapman, chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies, Inc., states in Truly Human Leadership.
Usually when we write about employee-centricity, we talk about it from the company perspective: companies should do this or companies should do that. Let’s take a look at it from a different angle. What does an employee-centric culture look like from the employee’s perspective?
Yes, my perspective.
I have a lot of thoughts running through my head in terms of the approach to take with this blog post, but I’ll start with something that I noted in Thursday’s post, that I would share a personal story in my next post about a culture of transparency that created employee engagement. I think that will help explain where I come up with my thoughts on how to define an employee-centric culture.
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Many years ago, I worked for an organization that I refer back to frequently when I talk to people about this very topic. I’m often asked why I liked working for this particular company, and I summed it up with the following.
Communication: The information was free-flowing from the top down and from the bottom, and I always felt like I was in the know about what was happening in the company, whether it was about the product, the financials, issues, or staff. This was the poster child for transparency.
Vision, Goals, Objectives: I suppose this could fall under the broad umbrella of Communication, but everyone knew the vision and objectives of the company, and we all felt really good about working together to make sure the business was successful.
Appreciation/Feeling Valued: I always say that I enjoy working for small companies because you can make a difference. Your ideas, suggestions, thoughts, and opinions are valued, taken into consideration, and often implemented. (OK, that doesn’t happen in every start-up or every small company.) That was definitely the case with this company.
Recognition: Employees were recognized for their contributions on a regular basis. There were celebrations for achievements and for jobs well done. We all knew where we stood. We all knew how we contributed to the bigger picture. With that came a sense of pride among the employees that we were building something great and cool.
Camaraderie and Collaboration: I’ll lump the two of these together. While they don’t necessarily (have to) go hand in hand, it’s easy to write about the two of them together for this company because we were a pretty close-knit family. We worked together, we played together.
These are all things that were important to me at the time, and they still are. And even through some rough patches, those were the kinds of things that held the company together. But I realized that there was more, which is why I ended up leaving. The following were there at some point, but eventually there was a gaping hole.
Trust: This one’s important. A lack of trust between employer and employee, manager and staff, really just results in disaster. This is a two-way street. I say, trust until you have a reason not to trust (or be trusted). Then it’s probably time to move on.
Respect: When the trust fizzled, so did the respect. Or maybe vice versa. No longer were we advocates for what we were doing and what we were building. No longer were we passionate about the cause.
Leadership: Hire the right people and let them do what they need to do. They were hired for a reason. Set the course, outline the vision and the purpose, and then set them free to execute. Sometimes the leader isn’t a (good) leader after all. And you no longer trust him/her. You no longer want to be a follower.
Customer-Centricity: Yea, this might sound a little strange, but stick with me. Companies are in business for a reason: to fulfill the needs of their customers. This is also about integrity and about doing the right thing. When the company loses sight of that, or when the company no longer operates with the customers’ best interests at the core of what it’s doing, then it’s time to move on.
The bottom line is that I was, we all were, passionate about the work we were doing, passionate about what we were building. Through a series of missteps, that culture crumbled, and ironically, that company no longer exists today.
What would you add? Think about a company you’ve worked for where you were an engaged employee because the culture was right. I’d love to hear about it.
If you take care of the people, they’ll take care of the service, and they’ll generate a profit. -Bill Logue, President and CEO of FedEx Freight