If you check the front page of Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, or any major business blog on any given day—chances are, you’ll see it least one article related to customer experience. And that makes sense, right? Every business owner knows that having happy customers is what keeps the lights on and the paychecks rolling out.
But for all the work you’re putting into keeping your customers happy—are you paying equal attention to maintaining happy employees?
As the millennial generation crosses the threshold to represent the largest percentage of the current workforce, we as a working culture have hit a crossroads. CEO’s range from 85 year old Warren Buffett to 31 year old Mark Zuckerberg.
The current workforce is more dynamic, more diverse, and more competitive than ever. And all the while, the median tenure for millennial employees is less than a third of what it was in the baby boomer generation.
In a way, it’s similar to the changing state of marriage. Today’s employees may sign on the dotted line, but it sure doesn’t mean they’re going to stick around. With increased flexibility and a new focus on creating beloved workplace culture, employees are celebrating their choices and their power.
And in such a highly connected world, transparency is inevitable. Reputations travel quickly, and highly desired employees can find job offers in their email or LinkedIn inbox at any time.
With the power shifted into the hands of the employees, CEOs and managers have to adjust accordingly. Besides improving your employee retention, an analysis of your employee relationship will reveal more than the state of your HR department; you’ll also see how customers feel about you and why your bottom line is what it is.
Counterintuitive as it may seem at first—the rising trend from some of the world’s most successful companies, like Southwest, Zappos and Patagonia, is to meet the needs of your employees first and customers second.
The Oxygen Mask Philosophy
Imagine you’re the pilot of a plane. The cabin loses air pressure, and those dreaded oxygen masks fall. What do you do? Stumble back to the plane and start fitting all of your passengers with oxygen? How long before you run out of oxygen and pass out?
So, you’re better off helping yourself first. But who comes next? Your passengers whose lives you’ve committed to saving? Or your flight crew?
Think about it. Do you think you’re better off running from row to row by yourself? Or would that time be better spent caring for your flight crew who can keep everyone calm and on task while helping those who need it?
This metaphor, while sensational, applies directly to running a business. If your employees are run-down or disengaged, how are they at their best to help your customers? As in any group culture, behavior is passed forward. How you treat your team is how they will treat your customers.
By prioritizing your employees’ health and well-being, you are not only ensuring that they are able to be their best selves at work, but also setting an example for how people should be treated. If you spend all day in a tense environment with passive aggressive behavior, how do you think you will treat the customer who calls in with a complex problem to be solved?
If you expect your employees to treat your customers as VIPs, you have to put your money where your mouth is by showing them what VIP treatment feels like. Touting brand slogans and philosophies is great, but what about putting them into action?
Happy Employees Are Attractive
If you read a lot of HR related content online, you might notice a trend. Fortune’s Best Companies list has a lot of overlap with the companies listed in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work, as well as LinkedIn’s Most In-Demand Employers. These companies with strong positive cultures are the most in-demand, meaning they have access to the best talent out there.
Culture is contagious. An employee who rates their company highly on a survey is more likely to recommend that company to other top talent in their social circle. With the advent of LinkedIn and other job-oriented social networking sites, it doesn’t take long for your reputation to precede you. The happier your employees are, the less effort you may have to invest into recruitment and employee retention.
Happy Employees Are Brand Ambassadors
Every employee should be treated as if they are a brand ambassador for your company—because the truth is, they are! Not only can this be done through social media outlets, but also in interactions with customers. The happier an employee is, the more genuine they are likely to seem in every interaction they have on behalf of your organization.
You Should Always Have an Finger On the Pulse of Your Team
Chances are, you’ve implemented some kind of feedback loop with your customers to make sure they’re having a positive experience. But do you do the same for your employees?
A yearly survey that rots in office files or jotted down notes from employee performance meetings aren’t going to cut it. If you don’t know or care where your employees stand with the brand, the company, and with management, there’s a good chance some of them may already be sending out resumes.
When an angry customer calls in to say they will be taking their business elsewhere, how far have you gone to retain that customer? When an employee raises an issue, the result should be no different. An unhappy employee is bad for office morale and brand reputation.
You can start to find the pulse of your workforce by sending out a Net Promoter Survey. The fun doesn’t stop there, however. Once the results are in, be transparent about the findings. What percentage of your employees would recommend your company to their friends?
By listening to your team and actually working to implement positive change, you show immense respect for your employees—and respect begets respect. If your team feels heard, they are much more likely to go the extra mile for your brand.
Take an Active and Inquisitive Role in Your Employees’ Lives
You are constantly adjusting your services to fit your customers’ needs, right? What about your employees?
With learning and development a top priority for young millennials, you can’t expect to hire someone, then sit back and take your foot off of the gas. Just as you have nurture campaigns for existing customers, you must conduct nurture campaigns for your existing employees.
If you don’t know each of your employees’ strengths and passions, flatly: you will lose them. Not only do you invest in improving your company’s bottom line when developing your talent, but you also invest in them as people—ensuring that they might stick around a lot longer.
Millennials in particular want to grow while seeing their actions’ effects on the company and, more pointedly, the world at large. By taking notice of their passions and directing them towards compatible challenges, they are far less likely to develop a wandering eye due to disengagement.
You can’t stop putting in the work after the honeymoon phase. Invest in your employees as much as you do in your customers. It is your responsibility to provide avenues for growth and development.
It all starts with asking some simple questions: Who are you and what moves you?
Prioritize User Friendly Internal Platforms
So we’ve waxed poetic plenty about the millennial workforce… But now it’s time to draw attention to a less ideal truth about millennials: they have never known a world without social media of some type. Millennials are accustomed to instant gratification and technological ease.
Whatever internal platforms your business may utilize, they should be held to the same standard of user friendliness as your external, customer-facing platforms. If you external platforms are sleek but your CRM program is like using a Windows 2005 computer, it’s safe to say that you may be rating low on employee happiness and satisfaction.
It is mandatory to keep pace with the technological knowledge of the largest generation in the US workforce. This will not only keep your team happy and engaged, but will also give you insight into this generation of consumers that, as studies show, will abandon a purchase on the spot if an answer isn’t readily available.
Programs with sleek, easy interfaces, like Sococo, are a great way to put employees first and stay engaged with the workforce. The goal should be to choose platforms that are user-friendly for workers of all ages, provide instantaneous connection, and provide a central hub to accomplish all of the above.
Help Your Employees Help Your Customers
As a manager or CEO, you have a lot on your plate. You’re constantly innovating to find ways to accomplish more by doing less. Maintaining a focus on your employees rather than your customers is a sure-fire way to simplify your responsibilities. By nurturing your team, you are creating an atmosphere of trust and respect that will inevitably be paid forward to your customers.
So, go ahead and place the oxygen mask over your face first. Ignore the passengers for a moment, and consistently check in with your flight crew. They’re the ones who will keep everyone satisfied as your business continues to take flight.