“The customer is always right” is a very commonly used business motto. And while it is undoubtedly important to be actively tuned into your clients’ behaviour, thoughts, and feelings, it can also be dangerous to solely put your customers first. The future value of any organization is determined not by customer satisfaction or by-product milestones but by the talent, culture, and capability that deliver it. It is the people who determine the future success of their organization.
What is Employee Obsession?
Employee obsession is the idea that your people come first and your customers come second. It is about using a humanitarian approach to leadership and teamwork and continually seeking to understand the people you work with deeply. Most importantly, it is about fostering a work culture guided by empathy.
Why be Employee Obsessed?
Being invested in the well-being and emotional state of your employees is important. When they feel good coming to work, they are passionate about adding value to your organization and are willing to do their best. When employees feel well cared for, they’ll also take good care of your clients. When teammates understand what their colleagues are thinking and feeling and why a whole new level of productive collaboration is possible. And when a work environment instills a sense of safety and judgement-free interaction, employees can spend less time stressing, fearing reprimand, and more time creatively doing work the best way (not just the desired way).
But employee obsession doesn’t only improve efficiency and productivity; it also reduces the cost of high turnover rates and continual employee absences.
How to be Employee Obsessed?
Does your organization put more value in understanding customers than its employees? Does it define success in terms of products and profit without considering the engagement and satisfaction of the people who worked for it? If so, then it may be time to reevaluate your leadership strategy and look to employ a more empathetic approach:
- MEASURE empathy by asking your employees questions like: “Do you have friends in the organization?” “Do you feel supported in the workplace?” and “How do you feel you are being treated at work?”
- LISTEN to your employees and hone in on their motivations, their wants, and their needs.
- ENGAGE and TAKE ACTION when you see signs of leadership by fear or barriers to productive work and/or expression of employee dissatisfaction.
- Develop a CULTURE within the organization founded on kindness, understanding, and compassion instead of limiting the empathetic mentality to leadership.
A guiding concept: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
Employee Obsession & Design Thinking
Design thinking is a methodology and a mindset that solves complex problems by deeply understanding the people involved. Usually, these people are the end-users and clients of your product or service. However, you can also apply design thinking principles to organizational challenges like low employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. In fact, the design thinking method is the perfect tool to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace – a growing concern for the public sector in particular. In this way, the empathetic attitude and human-centered tools (namely empathy maps, journey maps, and personas) at the core of design thinking can be harnessed to design an employee experience that addresses their true needs.
Spring2 Innovation offers a Design Thinking for Leaders Course, which helps leaders and human resources departments identify opportunities to improve their organizational processes to support employee obsession.
For more great insight on the importance of leading with empathy and employee obsession, be sure to also watch our Fireside Chat with Carol Leaman and David Coletto, “Leading for the Future: Empathy in Business.”