Employees as Customers

Blog 2020-12-15 photo

I love helping companies link organizational culture and business results. I get to help people do more by building their leadership. And I get really jazzed about also helping organizations create positive customer experiences.

When I say the word customer, you may be thinking of the people who buy things from a company. Yes, and I view customers as even more than that.

You see, the word customer in Latin originates from one’s habit, custom, or practice of doing something repeatedly. Many employees adopt a custom of behaving in ways that are expected, and which support the organizational culture…so they can be “custom-ers” too.

And the root of client in Latin is closely related to the notion of a follower. Employees follow a company’s identity, its leadership, maybe even their news, and so on…so they can be clients too (in the Latin sense).

Organizations operate as systems wherein value is generated by, and delivered to, employees every day…this value chain has customers at many of its junctures. One example is managers as leaders, and how they serve their employees through their leadership.

Employees as customers seems obvious to me. However, it took more than a year to convince one CEO of this. The organization was challenged with how their (external) customers viewed them. Our team suspected this was how their employees viewed the organization too. However, the connection was not readily apparent because the organization used different indicators to assess engagement with employees and customers. It appeared they viewed the two as unrelated.

A few things needed to shift inside the organization (with employees as internal customers) to get things to shift outside the organization (with external customers). We aligned how they measured engagement. We sought to better understand employee and external customer perspectives on those common indicators. We explored senior management mindsets around who they served and helped them shift how they viewed customers. We created structures that allowed collaboration between internal functions who would not normally interact with each other. And we coached their executive teams on how to have positive regard for customers – internal and external. In other words, for all people.

The outcome: Significant growth occurred, “customer” perceptions improved in a short period of time, and there was a positive ripple effect. In the years that immediately followed, shareholder return increased exponentially. Focusing on ALL people is where the magic of leadership lies.

This Week: Where are you impacted by the work of other employees, including your manager? How are you being treated as their “customer” or recipient of value they generate? Consider sharing what you “get” from them. And while you are at it, consider also sharing what you aim to “give” them as your customer.

In Next Week’s Post: The bigger picture

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