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Should You Put Employees First?

What Comes First the Chicken or the Egg?

Putting employees first seems counterintuitive. But its like the chicken vs. the egg question. Probably one day someone on high will come down from on high, and frankly it won’t matter anymore. Until then there’s always going to be a back and forth on the issue. How can you have customers if you don’t have employees that create a competent face for the company? Then again, how can you have high caliber employees motivated to create that competent atmosphere you need if you don’t have customers? They almost have to happen near simultaneously. Even though, it won’t happen that way.

In our particular audience we cater to small businesses who see this with acute awareness. We do to. Because we all have to rely on our employees to do more than the average bear. With limited budgets and burgeoning ideas, we have to get the employee to buy into the idea as much as the paycheck. The implied concept is that somewhere down the road both the paycheck and the idea will merge into one very profitable way forward. But while that merger seems a way off, we have to pick a side of the road. Do we emphasize the customer experience or the employee experience?

Employees First…in the chute

When it comes to small businesses and their employees, there has to be a special relationship to make the whole thing work. What we’ve found in our own experience, the smaller the business the more certain things come into focus.

First, the employee doesn’t just wear a lot of hats, but inside the business they know a lot of important things. Things that make the business run. In some cases, our own experience was that one person quickly became the foremost leading expert in the company on a critical task or function. This led to a white knuckle experience when one of us called in sick. We were all about to get a humbling lesson in employee appreciation.

Second, they have the relationships. Relationships, especially in the artisan world, are everything. This facet speaks to the very nature of the artisan and handicraft industries. As it was mentioned in another article, these industries can enjoy staunch customer support and loyalty. They stem from the quality of the product, but also something else, maybe even more important. I typically don’t get the blank stare from a small business employee that I get from a chain store when I ask about the product. The investment in the product and the company a small business employee brings can build customer base.

In her article Ivana Taylor reviews a book, “Employees First!: Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the Heart of Your Organization”, by Donna Cutting. She talks about a book maybe we should all consider, one that talks about the old argument, customer or employees first.

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Why is everyone doing this one thing with their employees; find out more now! Man in office contemplating; small business

Everyone has been talking about the “Great Resignation” and trying to figure out what’s underneath this phenomenon. I don’t think the answer is important, what I do think matters is that each small business owner takes a fresh look at all of the options available to them.

As I was looking for timely books to review, I ran across Employees First!: Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the Heart of Your Organization by Donna Cutting. “Gosh! I thought, it’s been a long time since we’ve explored the old customers-first vs employees first philosophy of business.” So I picked it up.

The book description asks a simple question “How do we get an hourly employee who has never received red carpet customer service, to give it?”

This is an important question to ask, because if you’ve been assigning value to people based on their position in your company or the type of work that you do, your first opportunity for improvement might start with your own mindset.

WHY You Should Be Putting Employees First

Everyone who’s anyone is doing it

Early in the introduction to Customers First Cutting mentions the 2020 HR Sentiment Study Conducted by Future Workplace. When they asked HR executives where they were putting their attention, more than 50% said “Focus on the employee experience first”.

The pandemic changed everything

The pandemic has shown us SO MUCH about ourselves and how we view work. On the one hand, “essential employees” — those who couldn’t work remotely finally realized that they were worth more than minimum wage.

Work-from-Home has taken root and many employees will either continue to work from home or go to a hybrid situation.

Finally, leaders will have to learn how to keep all employees connected and happy; those who HAVE to be on location and those who are working from home.

Donna Cutting is All About The Red Carpet Experience

Cutting is the founder and CEO of Red Carpet Training. As you can imagine, she believes that both employees and customers deserve to have that red carpet experience.

Cutting recognizes that no amount of money can buy “feeling special”. And she’s taken that simple idea and built a successful business around it. Customers First is her third book on the topic. In 2010 she wrote The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red Carpet Customer Service and in 2015 she wrote 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers: Easy-to-Implement Ideas to Inspire Loyalty, Get New Customers, and Make a Lasting Impression.

Cutting is also an award winning professional speaker. So, you know her books will be fun to read and very practical.

Let’s see what’s inside Customers First and how you can retain both customers and employees.

Step 1: Set the Stage INSIDE Your Organization

Cutter recommends that you “Give them something to care about”. In many ways, this is a marketing and branding activity. It’s the WHY behind your business, it’s the story you tell that inspires them and makes THEM feel like they are contributing.

Secondly, it’s you, as the business owner, recognizing that each employee is valuable, just as each customer is valuable. It’s a symbiotic relationship; happy customers are repeat customers, referring customers and profitable customers. Happy employees are exactly the same. Happy employees create happy customers, who become repeat customers and profitable customers (and employees).

Step 2: Keep New Hires

That’s the thing with new employees, they require and upfront investment in finding and training and if you can’t keep them, you lose money.

Keeping new hires is critical and inspiring them to create amazing customer experiences is what generates profits.

Step 3: Create and Establish an AUTHENTIC Culture of Caring

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we are all in this together. There simply is no room for platitudes like “People are our greatest asset” while management skims profits and leaves nothing for employees.

Use your “Why” and your values to infuse everything from your hiring practices to compensation.

This last step is a mindset more than a series of steps. It drives so many of the other chapters in the book and so many of the other lessons in the book.

What You’ll Learn From Employees First

I saw a quote somewhere that said that 90% of business success is the business owner’s mindset. I’d have to say that I agree.

Inside Employees First, you won’t be surprised by what you see — because it’s nothing more than the Golden Rule applied to your employees.

Give your team a reason to work together. Help them feel like they are part of something larger than themselves. This will give them a sense of purpose and make them more productive.
Be kind and compassionate at work. It will make the workplace a better place for everyone.
You can improve the way you communicate with other people by becoming more informative, interpersonal, and inspirational.
Promote diversity and inclusion. Remember, diversity includes, age, gender, race, and even personality and communication styles. The more diverse your workforce, the more successful you’ll be.
Compensate employees fairly without going broke in the process.
Keep your remote team Connected and engaged

Is Employees First For YOU?

You don’t need to have employees to appreciate employees first. If you’re working with freelancers or outsourced team members, I think this book is VITAL to your success.

After all, you are competing with other clients your team members are serving and it’s on you to inspire and engage them enough to focus on you and your projects.

This is also an ideal book for anyone who has done all the “basics” such as thrown money at the problem. Or, if you’ve found yourself complaining that “No one wants to work anymore” — this is a clear sign that you just might get something from this book.

Overall, I’m a fan of Employees First and I think if more business owners worked with this type of mindset, they would find it much easier to stand out from the competition, generate new customers and great employees and keep customers and employees. And, that means profits for everyone!

Image: amazon

This article, “Should You Put Employees First?” was first published on Small Business Trends

should you put Employees First? Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the Heart of Your Organization by Donna Cutting.Read MoreBusiness Books, Customer Service BooksSmall Business Trends

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