It’s Amazing What Happens When You Put People First

Vineet Nayar, an Indian business executive, author and philanthropist, and former Chief Executive Officer of HCL Technologies, authored a critically acclaimed management book a little while back titled “Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down”.

 My colleague and friend, S. Max Brown, had the opportunity to interview Vineet Nayar in Delhi, India for our former Internet radio show, Real Recognition Radio.

HCL Technologies has over 65,000 global employees in 26 different countries in the technology services industry.

Under Vineet’s leadership and vision, HCL changed from a workplace with high attrition and low attraction to being named the Number One Best Employer in India and Best Employer in both Asia and the United Kingdom.

How did recognition and appreciation in the workplace happen because of Vineet’s transformational thinking?

I’ll share some insights I gleaned from the interview.

Turning the Service Pyramid Upside Down

Vineet Nayar will tell you that conventional wisdom in most organizational leaders subscribe to the idea that they should put their customer first. They believe that if you want innovation and better profits you should focus on serving the customer.

Often the pyramid is drawn as a strategy model that has managers at the base, employees in the middle, and the customers on top at the apex. Employees were accountable to their managers.

Vineet turned that pyramid upside down and changed the structure.

He made managers and those in enabling functions – such as HR and finance – accountable to the frontline employees.

This creates a pyramid with the apex and the customers at the bottom, managers in the middle, and now employees, at what was the base, right at the top.

He knew he had to shake things up at HCL and he did it through making transformational change happen.

He had the vision to take their service-focused business, which has employees interfacing with customers all the time, and has his managers focus their attention on the employees.

The outcome, of course, is that customers gain the ultimate benefit of improved services because employees are treated so well.

Employees Need to Trust You To Work Well For You

Employees need to believe their managers. They need to have credibility in the future of the company or they will not work to the best of their abilities.

They also have to trust their leaders, their managers and the company as a whole.

Vineet recommends that the trust employees want and need come as a direct result of transparency in the communication, expectations and accountability of everyone.

Only then can all employees align themselves with one visionary goal.

This can only happen if everyone trusts one another, from the CEO all the way down to the frontline supervisor.

Transparency Leads to Better Recognition

Putting trust and transparency in your communication increases your ability to give meaningful recognition which is simplified and enhanced.

Vineet shared with us the reason employees don’t feel motivated is because they cannot trust you.

When you give people a vision of what you see the company and their work becoming, people get excited about their work and make whatever change is necessary to reach the company goals.

He shared the story about a teacher and asked, “Who recognizes the teacher?”

He or she sees the joy in the life of their students who discover the learning of new knowledge and skills. The teacher sees the success in the lives of their students and how much they have grown.

Teachers who make a difference are givers and not takers.

Similarly, whether manager or employee, transparency makes you more vulnerable to being open and giving with your feedback and praise of others.

Your recognition is truly authentic and meaningful to the receiver because you are sincere and transparent.

And the recognition that transparent leaders give is never forgotten.

Question: How has being transparent with others made the recognition you give people more authentic and meaningful?

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