Knowledge is power. In customer service, it's also profit.

Put Your PEOPLE First: Your Customers Will Thank You For It

Posted by Holly Markel on July 13, 2011

Put Your People FirstSouthwest Airlines turns the big "40" this month and the sprightly young airline commemorates the day with something far better than a mid life crisis. They offer up "40 lessons learned from Southwest." All 40 lessons for corporate success are brilliant, but one in particular really stands out.

"Lesson #28: Put the Workers First" 

In 2010, Southwest received 143,143 resumes and hired 2,188 new employees. People are practically begging to work there…does your company have a line of potential employees waiting to work for you? Southwest Airlines values employees above all else. The top three SWA values are – in this order of importance:

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Stockholders 

Do you put your people first...even before your customers? 

When asked what principles have remained unchanged throughout their years of success, Gary Kelly, CEO states, "Our core values, what we stand for, putting our people first, making our people our top priority." 

Making people a priority has earned them the No. 1 airline for customer service. Southwest surpasses its competition as being the No. 1 low-fare airline as well as the distinction of being the safest airline. SWA knew from the beginning that when you focus on your people first, your customers will benefit in the end.

This sounds great in theory but we are not an airline! How can I achieve this in my organization?

"Organizations with a high level of employee engagement have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry." 

This statistic is based on a recent Gallup analysis of more than 152 organizations. This research supports the principle that engaged employees are more productive. Outcomes of the study also indicate that they are more profitable, more customer-focused, safer, and more likely to withstand temptations to leave.

You may be wondering:
"What is Employee Engagement?"

"How can I measure it?"
"How can I improve engagement within my company?" 

"What is Employee Engagement?"
There are many different definitions of employee engagement, and at its core, it is the connection that an employee has to their company. This connection influences the level of effort they are willing to give to help it succeed. Wikipedia defines the concept as, "Employee Engagement is the extent to which workforce commitment, both emotional and intellectual, exists relative to accomplishing the work, mission, and vision of the organization. Engagement can be seen as a heightened level of ownership where each employee wants to do whatever they can for the benefit of their internal and external customers, and for the success of the organization as a whole."

"How can I measure it?"
Several factors drive employee engagement and getting a measure on how your employees rate those factors will result in the necessary feedback for creating action plans for improvement. An employee experience survey, designed to measure these factors, is an effective method to measure engagement and can identify successes and opportunities. For example, an outcome of the survey could indicate: "We are doing really well with setting standards, yet there is room for improvement in how our employees rate our company communication and trust levels."

"How can I improve engagement within my company?"
A targeted employee survey offers a roadmap for improvement that is meaningful and relevant to the organization. It is also a great way to gather and respond to employee compliments and complaints. Many companies place great importance on collecting customer feedback; yet in order to make real improvement within an organization, CSE recommends focusing first on employee feedback. 

Successful organizations understand that employee engagement is a force that drives performance outcomes. Thus, engagement needs to be more than a simple initiative -- it should be a strategic focus for the way companies operate. 

  • Understand employee engagement and its effect on your company
  • Measure the level of engagement within your organization to achieve baseline data
  • Create an action plan for meaningful improvements and best practices to parallel successes
  • Benefit from a more engaged team that connect with one another and your customers