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June - 2007 - issue > Sage Speak
Employees-are-your-customers
Anilesh Seth
Friday, June 1, 2007
We hear a great deal today about customer service and for a very good reason. Without a direct or indirect customer base, a company would not remain in business very long. In order to provide proper customer service, a company must understand its customer and do everything possible to meet or exceed their expectations.

While we talk about customer orientation, we should note that all employees are actually customers of the company and the leaders they work for. Just as there are certain expectations that a customer has of a company; there are specific expectations an employee has of their company and its management team. Some of these expectations are very basic such as training and communications, a pleasant working environment, benefits, and of course, a paycheck. Beyond these however, successful leaders will find that they must help employees build confidence, learn to take calculated risks, enhance their leadership abilities, and establish a sound career with financial independence. In order to do this, a leader must first make every effort to understand the goals, needs and values of each employee.

My father worked for the Ministry of External Affairs, India. Due to his job responsibilities, as a youngster, I traveled extensively with my family and had the opportunity to do my early schooling in several different countries including the U.S., Turkey, Nepal and Kenya. This has given me a good appreciation of different cultures, and has made me quite adaptable to different situations and the needs of the people within an organization. While every company has its own unique culture, it is extremely important in business today to understand the very diverse needs of individual employees and their families.

This understanding and appreciation of individual goals, needs and values enables the development of programs and strategies to help employees reach their personal and professional goals. One of the best practices a progressive organization can adopt is a coaching and mentoring culture. This has to tie in with company needs, growth aspirations of individuals and of course must also be derived from a comprehensive performance management plan. A company and the leaders within it must commit to helping employees build their future in all aspects - educational, recreational, career, and financial. In essence, an organization must contribute “value” to an employee.

This is not to say that a person’s success rests totally in the hands of the company or the managers he or she works for. On the contrary, an individual should take ownership of their career growth and take advantage of every opportunity to learn. They should continuously ask themselves the following question: What value am I adding to the company and how can I continue to advance my career while contributing to the company’s success? An employee, particularly one who aspires to move into leadership positions, must ask questions, act with integrity, understand the “big picture” (meaning a company’s core business), and always focus on the customer – whether internal or external. In addition, an individual must have a can-do attitude; they must also seek out challenges and meet them head-on regardless of whether they’ve experienced the challenge before.
As competitive as the business environment is today, a company can only continue to be successful if they value their employees as much as they value their very best customer. A company must be willing to invest the time, energy and resources to enhance the skills and experience levels of their employees. Today, when a talented individual joins our team for the right reasons and is truly committed to his or her success and the company’s success, I will see that they receive the coaching and mentoring needed to continue to learn and advance. I firmly believe that leaders can be created and are not born, and that training and development are critical in helping them grow and enhance their careers.

The author is, Managing Director of SUPERVALU Services India. He can be reached at Anilesh.Seth@supervalu.com

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