Treat your employees like your customers

A Case for a New Company Culture

By Tobias Koedel January 21st, 2019

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— The shift to the digital age, as well as increased competition, is changing the way we need to act to retain talent: that’s why creating a true ‘company culture’ to unleash each employee’s potential is key to a company’s success.

Traditionally, big corporations used to see their employees mainly as the ‘workforce’ responsible for the product. This old, outdated perspective needs to change as soon as possible as expanded access to knowledge and the spread of cross-functional roles, means that employees today are much more than just a production unit – and they know it.


Instead, employees are the first innovation drivers of a company and are the absolute keys to its future success. If you want your company to be successful as much tomorrow as it is today, you have to find ways to retain the talent that is working for you. To achieve this, it is pivotal to create a positive and engaging company culture. You need to inspire your employees continuously. Define new paths and workflows. Get them enthralled by a culture that attracts the vital drive of humans beings. If you create room, where each individual can discover his or her meaning of live and connect it with the companies purpose, you will truly unleash their potential. 


Here’ are some tips on how to achieve such a complex, but crucial, transformation.


1 - Think of your employee as your customer. We are used to put most of our effort and budgets in communicating our brand’s values to the final customer; today, we have to improve the way we communicate these values on the inside. Our customers are not the only ones buying into products, but what works for the brand also works for the company. In the future happy employees will make customers happy. Therefore we need to invest. Of course in marketing and efforts to sell our products. But much more into internal activities, events and learning formats which enable our employees to strengthen their emotional tie with the organization. Make them feel a vital part of a movement and support them the to do their best, day after day. Providing inspiration as a service is the new duty for corporations!


2 - Create room for failure and innovation. Establishing a culture that truly supports innovation means to provide the best possible conditions people need to feel and act free, empowered and trusted. Create room for people to fail, and teach them to not always strive for perfection. Help your employees develop an entrepreneurial spirit; let them deal with budgets, development cycles, manage small teams, and give them enough time and resources to work on their own projects. Be a coach, give feedback and accompany as a mentor. You might have an employee with a fantastic idea that goes beyond what’s in his or her job title, but that could turn into a million dollar business in a couple of years. So, why don't you just give people a weekday off to work on what their brains inspires them to do? 


How simple is it to redesign an organization from scratch?


3 - Forge leadership experts. Did you become a leader because you are an expert for leadership? No. Because you are an expert in other fields. Well that’s ok. Most of our current leaders came that way. Leadership is a talent, but also a skill: people can learn it and become very good at it. To me, fostering a leadership culture means providing an ecosystem or set of circumstances for people to achieve their full potential. We need to forge experts for leadership, role models who are able to inspire and empower their colleagues throughout the journey. To have leaders, we need leaders. 


4 - Design new learning paths. It’s important to redefine the way employees learn - the way we all learn. Today, learning is often boring and tiring, and it shouldn’t be so. Instead, it should be exciting, mind-opening, stimulating, energizing. We should ask ourselves questions like, “how can we implement new learning formats into the equation to the benefit of employees?”, “how can we inspire them through training and mentoring?”, “how can we make them not feel judged throughout the learning process?”. So let´s go out and make learning a fun thing to do!


5 - Be Bold. Transformation takes time: A caterpillar doesn't turn into a butterfly overnight. When you need to rework or redesign an existing portfolio, skill or mind set by implementing new stuff be a rebel and always aim for revolutionary ideas. Come up with real moon-shoots, bring leadership perspectives that go beyond your own comfort zone, put employees in contact with different people that work in different companies and fields. Even when you end up with „just“ an evolution - the evolution will be more powerful if you think big right from the start. Don’t be afraid: Being bold is a great way to inspire who’s working with you. And you will need to constantly find ways like this to stay on top of the game.


6 - Get the Board on board. A bottom up approach to transform culture is your key to wonderland. Activating the WeQ of organizations and relying on the collective intelligence of your employees is the answer to a world that is changing exponentially. One thing is for sure. Without top down support from your Board of Management you will make it nowhere. So get your Board on board. A transformation based on authenticity, commitment and involvement, brought to life by real role models is a must have. Besides putting your transformation on victory street, being a true supporter will become the most powerful image campaign for every CEO and every Board of Management. And it will become a turbo boost for your employer brand.


These tips are, of course, not the be all and end all. But they are tenets any leader, employee, company - everybody who is serious about the future should not only keep in mind, but impart throughout their organization going forward. Transforming organizations means working closely with humans by finding new perspectives through a wide and dynamic participation process. So it is about us. We are all drivers of transformation. What a beautiful privilege and challenge at the same time.

The end.