Employee Experience (EX) Blog Series: Put Employees First (Part 5)

Customer Experience


September 29, 2016

In the human era, people seek purpose and long for authentic and meaningful connection. When people find purpose and connection, especially with the work they do and the organization they choose to work with, potentiality multiples and lasting engagement ensues.

In our recent POV, Employee Experience Redefined, we dissect the power of exceptional EX as a new, critical point of differentiation for organizations to grow and thrive. To date, our Employee Experience True North Blog Series has highlighted each of our five principles of EX differentiation.

In this final entry in our series, we highlight the principle of Put Employees First.


Put Employees First

While it may seem to state the obvious it still bears repeating. There are many unspoken expectations in organizations today. In the human era specifically, it is unrealistic and unwise to assume that employees will subjugate their needs and desires in order to serve the organization and meet the needs of external and internal customers. Human beings don’t function that way — they never have. Since the Industrial Revolution (and probably before that) many organizations have operated in a state of “un-reality.” They have erroneously relied on the notion that people will abandon their personas and the rest of their life when they work.  Is it any wonder that employee engagement around the world is distressingly low?

To provide a differentiated employee experience, organizations need to put employees first. This involves adding (more) humanity to the organizational DNA and ecosystem for the benefit of the people who share its purpose. Adopting a human-centered design approach — to the services, processes, products, tools & technology, content, work environment and events provided to employees — puts employees first fundamentally. It is an approach that understands and addresses the needs and desires of the employees first and ends with solutions that are tailored to meet those needs and desires. However, this approach itself is insufficient if differentiation is the goal.

Organizations must value employees as well, evidenced by prioritizing and investing in employees first. Every strategy, every decision, every message (e.g. corporate brand, go-to-market strategy, investment strategies, operating model, organization design, et al) should be viewed through a sharply-focused employee-first lens.  Platitudes and false and/or broken promises must be detected and eradicated. Over time, and with continued employee-first behavior, trust can develop as the employee/employer relationship moves beyond a utilitarian one to a reciprocal one with meaning and value. As a result, employees will engage without reservation.  Their energy and enthusiasm will expand geometrically, reaching colleagues, the broader organization, customers, and even the community and world beyond.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group Ltd. conglomerate is an exceptional example of an organization that practices the principle of Putting Employees First. Branson is known for his ‘employee first, customer second’ mantra which he attributes to his success.

Another example is HCL Technologies, one of the largest IT outsourcing firms in the world. Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies says “[A]ny company that says “customer first” does not know how to deliver that promise. All I am saying is by putting employees first you can actually deliver your promise of customer first. If you do not put the employee first – if the business of management and managers is not to put employee first – there is no way you can get the customer first.”

In sum, organizations that commit to the five core EX principles are able to differentiate themselves and fully realize their greatest competitive advantage. We reiterate the five core principles:  Embrace the Whole Human; Choose Connection Over Utility; Synchronize Experience, Brand and Culture; Align Internal Functions Across Teams; and Put Employees First.

Watch this space for future insights on Employee Experience.