The customer is king.
The customer is always right.
The customer comes first.
It’s all about the customer.
Not so fast.
At Inzpire, we try very hard to keep our customers happy but there are some people who are even more important to us: our employees.
Yes, at Inzpire, we put our employees first because the core mission of any corporation is to create value for its customers. And who creates that value? Employees!
It is a company’s employees who are responsible for the happiness (or otherwise) of its customers. A business can only keep its customers happy if its staff feel happy. That’s why, here at Inzpire, the staff always come first.
I know this flies in the face of business tradition but since when was Inzpire ‘traditional’? We are simply not like most other companies and we take pride in that. Too many businesses think of products, brands and customers as their primary source of value while employees are regarded as a cost to be controlled and minimised. We think that is completely back to front. Everything an organisation does comes from its employees. It is obvious that they must be the priority.
Why Companies Should Put Employees First
It takes more than great products and services to create happy customers. It takes motivated, empowered, frontline employees engaged in personal one-to-one contact with customers in order to understand their needs, deliver what they actually ask for, and create a positive experience.
In turn, this requires a happy, engaged and energised workforce because employees only commit to achieving excellence when they feel appreciated, supported and involved.
Take the issue of brand. Employees create and define a company’s brand. They are the brand! Companies can fake testimonials and reviews but they can’t fake is how happy their employees and what they say to other people when nobody is looking. Happy employees say good things. Unhappy employees are incredibly destructive.
Happy employees are a brilliant recruiting tool because employee referrals are more powerful than any head hunter. If you are in a battle for scarce talent (as Inzpire is) then happy employees are a secret recruitment weapon. What’s more, happy employees tend not to leave – which is important because employee turnover costs companies millions each year in recruitment, training and administrative costs.
Finally, it is worth noting that the core competence of any company is vested in its employees. The vast majority of most companies’ capabilities are related to intangible capital such as experience and skill. Studies show that loss of expensive equipment is almost always less damaging than the loss of key people.
Therefore it’s a complete no-brainer. Valuing the happiness of staff ahead of customers boosts company morale, enhances productivity, lowers costs and drives forward revenue. What business would not want that?
People who are happy at work enjoy life more and have better health, stronger relationships and a greater sense of purpose. They also have a hugely positive impact on the organisations they work for – all the evidence shows that happier staff are more productive, creative and committed.
Inzpire’s Civilian Qualified Helicopter Instructors at AAC Middle Wallop
What happens when you put your employees first?
When you make employees your priority they become happy and fully engaged.
There is an authenticity to customer service provided by happy and fully engaged employees that shines through. Here is an example quoted in a McKinsey report:
“Once upon a time, a little girl visited a Disney theme park. Sadly, she dropped her favourite doll over a fence and into a muddy puddle. When members of the park staff retrieved the doll, it was a mess. So they made it a new outfit, gave it a bath and a new hairdo, and even took photos of it with other Disney dolls before reuniting it with the owner that evening. “Pure magic” was the way the girl’s mother described the doll’s return.
What is most remarkable about this fairy-tale ending (which has since become part of Disney’s institutional folklore) is what didn’t occur. The theme-park team didn’t panic, consult a corporate script on what to do in such a situation, or anxiously seek advice from managers so as not to botch their response to a small—but real—crisis for one of its customers.” (Dilip Bhattacharjee, Jesus Moreno, and Francisco Ortegah, March 2016, click here to read the full report).
I believe that the Disney team’s understanding of what needed to be done for the young customer grew automatically from happy and fully engaged employees. Can you imagine unhappy employees acting in this way?
Putting employees first makes sense because there can be little or no customer satisfaction (and thus business growth) without employee satisfaction. Employee happiness is vitally important and enlightened businesses far and wide are slowly understanding this.
A number of Inzpire colleagues on a night out with work friends from the Air Battlespace Training Centre at RAF Waddington.
How can companies put employees first?
There are many ways to build frontline-employee happiness, and thus a superior customer experience.
Here are a few of the tools that we use to build happiness at Inzpire:
Hire for attitude, not aptitude. The reality is that the most important factors to being good at a job aren’t commonly listed on CVs. We don’t worry too much how to drive the bus, we just focus on getting the right people, with the right attitude, on board the bus; they will figure out how to drive it soon enough.
Create an environment of trust. This is reflected in things like Inzpire’s uncapped leave policy, which enables people to manage their own leave.
Grant autonomy, mastery and control over work. This stimulates innovative thinking and ownership and, strange as it may seem, the best leaders gain authority by giving it away.
Listen to people and be honest with them. Employ the wisdom of crowds and accept that none of us knows as much as all of us. We encourage constructive dissent because, in the long term, it is always better to hear unpleasant truths that comforting lies.
Be Flexible. Avoid being too rigid. Process and rules have a place but flexibility is the key. At Inzpire we let people work from home if they need to, we don’t mind if people take time off to go to the gym in the day, we occasionally all go for an unscheduled pub lunch. We want to feel alive! We try to treat everyone as adults and we know that the best way to find out if you can trust people is to actually trust them.
Instill shared vision and shared purpose. This is the invisible glue that binds our business together. Purpose and vision are everything at Inzpire. We exist to create a revolution of honour, integrity and trust in defence. We see profit not as an aim but as a by product of a life well lived. Our 15 year vision is to become the most trusted and respected defence company on the planet, and we will.
Look after people. If our staff fall sick, have a tragedy or are unable to work they can be totally confident we will take care of them. We once paid somebody full salary for 18 months even though that person was not able to attend work for a single day during that period. If our people experience deep grief or great joy, they know we care. We believe in lifting people up. We believe in an environment where employees take care of each other, as well as our customers. It is the little things that make the difference, like the Christmas meal the company buys all our employees families in December.
Share the fruits of success. We try very hard to do this. Virtually everyone at Inzpire is a share option holder. We have private dental and private health care and very comprehensive death in service benefit, as well as a host of other benefits.
Happiness is not something ‘soft and fluffy’. It really matters and the pursuit of employee happiness makes real business sense. We spend a lot of time trying to make Inzpire’s employees happy because happy workplaces bring huge benefits, not just for people but for organisations too.
Like any organisation, we don’t get everything right, and we have certainly made plenty of errors along the way. I have made many errors personally! But one thing that everyone at Inzpire understands is this: expecting good customer service from employees who are unhappy is totally futile.
Keeping customers happy is vital but putting your employees first, even ahead of customers, that’s the true power that drives business.
That’s why employees will always No 1 at Inzpire.
Inzpire’s Aviation Experts team during an Exercise delivery at RAF Waddington’s Air Battlespace Training Centre.