A labor/employment and business attorney by trade, I often find parallels between my legal training and my experience as an HR leader. Lately, I’ve been considering championing a new law – The Employee Equality Act. My bill would require businesses to treat employees with the same reverence as customers. Though my proposed legislation is entirely fictional, the sentiment behind it couldn’t be more real.
Head to your local bookstore’s business section, and you’ll find dozens of titles about how to build, grow, and evolve your approach to customer service. It’s widely understood that customer success begets business success. No wonder organizations spend so much time and money on customer marketing, communications, and service. As Sam Walton of Walmart writes in his memoir, Made in America, “The goal of a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.”
Next, browse for books about corporate culture. You’ll find dozens of additional titles that promise to help you build, grow, and evolve powerful cultures like those at Zappos and Patagonia. Now, peruse the section related to corporate marketing. You’ll come face-to-spine with a plethora of books addressing every facet of marketing.
Finally, look for books about how to implement world-class employee marketing and communications. I guarantee you won’t find many – if any – titles on the topic.
As a business leader and HR executive, I’m beyond baffled by this gap. We all seem to accept the reality of employees serving customers. We spend countless hours reading, meeting, and speaking about how to deliver world-class customer service.
But, that’s only half of the equation. What about the importance of leaders serving employees? How much time to do we spend perfecting the craft of employee marketing?
Think about The Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated. In business, this has historically translated to treating our customers like our most valuable assets. It’s not uncommon for companies to invest upwards of 25% of their budget on customer service and customer communications and dedicate less than 1% of their budgets to employee marketing.
To be clear, I agree that customer service and marketing are incredibly important to business success. If you don’t execute well in these areas, it won’t matter how superior your product is or how much people need the goods and services you’re selling. If customers don’t feel valued, understand what makes your company unique, and fully commit to your product over competitors, business will eventually flatline.
The Golden Rule extends beyond customer service, however. As business leaders, we need to approach employee marketing, measurement, and investment with the same tenacity as their customer equivalents. In short, treat employees as well as you treat customers.
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, says it best: “You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed the employees’ expectations of management.”
Affordable and comprehensive benefits are a good start. Meaningful volunteer opportunities and gracious paid time off help, too. But, that’s only the beginning. To “Deliver WOW through service” (a core value at Zappos) for employees with the same fervor as customers, you must rethink every employee touch-point.
For example, consider the differences between your current customer and employee communications. Chances are, customer communications are scrutinized at length, involve engaging and professional messaging and design, and are professionally printed or delivered through user-friendly digital channels.
Now, think about typical employee communications. It’s not uncommon to see plain text emails, newsletters thrown together in Microsoft Word and printed on the office copier, and company meeting PowerPoints bursting at the seams with bullet points and cheesy ClipArt.
Arguably, employee and customer communications are of equal importance to their constituencies. Why, then, is the design, messaging, and delivery far superior for the customer audience? The time for such inequality is over.
The good news? Your organization already has a playbook for how to treat employees – it’s the same way you treat your customers.
To be continued in the Employee Equality Act: Part 2.