It’s logical to emphasize consumer needs and view them as the starting point to sustaining brand relevance. But, digging deeper, some of the most successful businesses prioritize their own employees, believing in the golden rule — when team members feel valued, they make customers feel valued, which in turn, makes investors happy. One way this can be executed is by involving team members in innovation and strategy initiatives, placing value on their ideas and giving them autonomy to lead with the best interests of consumers and customers in mind.
In a Harvard study of 21 businesses on “best places to work” lists and known for their successful cultures, researchers double-clicked into operations to search for any common themes. They found that each of the companies put employees first by empowering them to act entrepreneurially, supporting their non-work lives, and promoting a growth mindset where failures are viewed as vehicles for growth.
Leaders and entrepreneurs have been sharing employee-first thoughts and practices; and Peloton recently shifted its attention in the midst of its tremendous growth.
“We believe if we create a world-class employee experience, they will deliver a world-class member experience.” – Brad Olson, Chief Membership Officer, Peloton
Entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk believes that putting employees first is essential for any business to succeed. And, while he views this as a timeless principle, he also sees shifting tides around making this an increasingly relevant and necessary practice.
“It’s clear that employee-first businesses will win in the next decade. Tides are changing and people are evolving to value what really matters. There is no way for CEOs and business leaders to win if they don’t understand this shift. More than a new thing or random part of the “new normal,” employee-first businesses have won big for many years now.” – Gary Vee
A small business pioneer in putting employees first is Joe’s Stone Crab. The Miami Beach restaurant invests in its staff and purveyors by, first and foremost, paying them above standard wages. Founder Joe Weiss also began offering health insurance, pensions, and profit sharing for workers in the 1970s — ahead of others. As a result, Joe’s Stone Crab team members stay with them for an average of 15 years, even though the restaurant closes for three months each year when stone crabs are out of season. We don’t see that type of loyalty very often in the high-turnover restaurant industry.
A BigCo example is Publix, the largest employee-owned company in the nation. Founder George Jenkins formed a company culture that remains today with his simple, yet impactful philosophy — to respect people. The regional grocery giant has never veered from George’s original philosophy of treating both employees and customers as family. A member of our TGG team who regularly shops at Publix can vouch for their stellar and consistent customer service — independent of store location.
Luxury hotelier Ritz-Carlton and online retailer Zappos are known for the permission and empowerment they give their team members to solve problems for their customers. Standing on their respective values, each brand demonstrates commitment to and trust in their employees by giving them tools to use and freedom to use them. Ritz-Carlton’s commitment is so strong that any employee is independently authorized to spend up to $2,000 per day to improve a guest’s experience. Zappos empowers their team to embark on a daily quest to “wow” customers in unexpected and delightful ways. Late CEO Tony Hsieh was viewed by many as a “pioneer of company culture” — one who believed that encouraging employees to make decisions in the best interests of customers would fuel both productivity and innovation. Touchpoints with Zappos’ representatives are genuine — unscripted, solution-oriented, not limited by time, and without upsell. As a result, shoppers keep coming back to the site for more.
And, that customer retention is key to profitability for any business. Arthur Blank, Co-Founder of Home Depot, argues that employee-first practices and profitability are of equal importance and actually fuel each other.
“You can have both profitability and emphasis on the people side of the equation. In fact, if you’re going to achieve both at high levels, you need to put emphasis on both of them. One feeds strongly into the other.” – Arthur M. Blank, author of Good Company
In line with your brand’s values, how can you express your appreciation for and commitment to your employees year round?
As always, we’re happy to help you think through how to prioritize your employees while tackling innovation and/or strategy challenges. Placing value on your employees and their ideas will help you, in turn, win with consumers and investors. Get in touch with The Garage Group >>>