Are Your People Served First?


I ran across an intriguing article the other day in my local newspaper. The article highlighted a company that believes in and practices putting their people first. Personally, I have enjoyed a great relationship with this company and, from where I sit, they’re doing things right. Their employees seem happy and their products and services bring joy to many. They have scores of fans…..including me. So delighted and comforted by what I read about their philosophy and people practices, I cut out the article and resolved to share their people strategy with others. You may be wondering why this delighted me so. I’ll explain…

Not too long ago, I came across a leader who earnestly shared with me that in her organization, customers came first… always had and always will. For after all, this leader exclaimed, “Our customer is why we are in business. ..our employees cannot be our priority.” This gave me pause. I felt a little deflated. I revisited my fundamental views about why organizations succeed, what makes a healthy workplace, etc. and just couldn’t bring myself to see the wisdom in this perspective.

So let’s come back to my uplifting article about a CEO and a company with a polar opposite world view than just described. This company’s rationale for putting people first was, I’m guessing, rooted in the Service Profit Chain model and philosophy which, put simply, says this: If you serve your people, your people will serve your customers. In turn, your customers will serve your business and ensure it is profitable. If you think about human nature, this philosophy might seem logical. Basically, it’s the Golden Rule, right? Yet, how is it that this company’s view made news? The notion is simple and logical. Sadly, it’s not commonplace. But it can be.

Can our organizations thrive if leaders treat employees like they are secondary at best? I wouldn’t bank on it. In my experience with organizations, most are hungry for the formula to enhanced employee engagement and higher retention of their best and brightest performers. They are seeking ways to attain “employer of choice” status and cultivate world-class cultures, all leading to marketplace relevancy. These things happen when employees feel and see that their leaders value them intently.

So, what would happen in your organization if you consistently and genuinely delighted the employees you are entrusting to delight your customers? If you did so, might order be restored in a workplace that may now feel like it’s in crisis or in complacency? Have you lost sight of who in your organization should really come first? We challenge you to build the work environment that will encourage your leaders to inspire and equip those served…and it all starts with your people.

Delia Mallory

Trainer, Servant Leadership Institute