What is an Employee First Culture?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “the customer is always right” a thousand times before. It’s so ingrained in our culture and everyday business practices because it seems like common sense. Prioritize the needs of the customer above all else and business will thrive. But there’s an often overlooked member of this equation that truly has the greatest impact overall on customer satisfaction: the employee.

A newly emerging management approach that aims to create an employee-first culture is slowly being put into widespread practice. Developed in the book “Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down” by Vineet Nayar, the theory is an answer to organizations experiencing high turnover, low customer satisfaction and low ambition in their staff. In short, an employee-first culture is one where employers invest highly in the training and tools of employees in customer-facing positions.

At the core of the employee-first culture is the philosophy that workers who feel valued by their employers naturally work harder, more efficiently, and with greater initiative on behalf of the client; happy workers lead to happy customers. In the traditional customer-first model, employees tend to feel as though they are an afterthought in their supervisors’ minds, encouraged and rewarded so long as the customer’s needs are met. Oftentimes, they can feel unfairly blamed or underprepared if clients become unsatisfied. In the employee-first approach, effective support provided to employees results in genuinely enthusiastic service that customers notice and appreciate.

Support in this context comes to mean addressing a particular need, big or small, as long as it directly involves the employee. The most crucial needs of employees may differ greatly from person to person, but identifying ones that have the greatest effect can only happen with intentional listening. Creating a system for employee feedback not only helps you determine their needs but the needs of the customer; customer-facing level employees learn firsthand customers’ purest expectations of the business. This information can only be gained from the ground level but when relayed, it allows companies to more accurately target their audience, equip employees with the most helpful resources, and provide superiorly accurate service.

Could employee first culture be part of a solution to workforce turnover and dissatisfaction? Next week, we’ll look at what this strategy looks like in the field of long term care and how decision makers can start taking steps toward establishing an employee-first culture.

Dr. Linda Shell, MA. RN | LindaShell.com

Dr. Linda Shell MA, RN, principal and co-owner of LindaShell.Com and Legacy Market Services, Inc, has over twenty-five years of experience providing education, leadership development and consultation to non-profit and for-profit senior care organizations.