Are You Exhibiting the Value That You Place in Your Employees?

“I am successful because of my employees, they are the ones that made my business successful.”

That was a quote I heard the other day from Danny Meyer, owner and Chief Executive Officer of Union Square Hospitality Group, which comprises 11 restaurants in New York City. He said it while announcing a new company policy of eliminating tips in his restaurants.

This made big news because in the U.S., because unlike other countries, you are expected to tip workers for a job well done — whether it is for the meal being served or any other type of service provided.

This created quite the conversation about the merits of eliminating tips, both pro and con. However, that was not what attracted me to this story as I have no problem tipping at all.

You are the cause of my success

What I thoroughly enjoyed was hearing a CEO make a statement that equated his success to his employees hard work. Whether you have a killer strategy, product, or game-changing competitive differentiator, it all comes back to the most important component in that equation: Your worker.

It has nothing to do with your senior team that leads an organization, but it does have a lot to do with the VIPs called your workforce.

If you get that right, success will come.

So, I applaud Mr. Meyer in talking about the pillars of his organizational success. I often think that if more senior leaders spoke truth to that statement, a lot of the corporate ills we hear about would gradually fade away.

Success has a thousand fathers

Just the other day, Twitter’s new CEO announced that massive layoffs were coming. Wall Street applauded it as a good move, but a large portion of Twitter’s employee population would go home that evening in a daze. The strategy from the prior regime did not work, and guess who pays the price? There is a saying that success has a thousand fathers, and failure is an orphan.

Great employees are NOT replaceable. Yes, you can always find someone to do it cheaper, but in the end it is not your product or service that makes you great, it is your people.

It is that connection that they make to your organization, your customers, or your process to build that product that is the silver lining. That connection is strengthened when your employees feel that they are valued.

Statements are just WORDS

Mission and values statements have become de rigueur with companies spending large sums of money to craft the perfect statement. They wordsmith it to death and design and develop a master collection of words that make for the perfect statement.

However, if you do not connect that statement all the way down to the lowest stop on the totem pole [your organizational chart], you will not get a return on that investment. And, if your employees notice that your actions run counter to that well-crafted statement, it is lights out.

You have to live, eat and breathe that mission or values statement. That is what makes a top rate organization.

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Danny Meyer’s proclamation to his restaurant employees really said more about his organization than some web page could ever do. One of the constants that leaders today must realize is that with the advent of social media and 24/7 news is that you are “always on.” Statements and actions, even made in jest, take a life of their own and have the ability’s too boost or bury you and your organization.

That makes it pretty clear: We have to live for corporate values in all our actions

A value that can’t be easily replaced

When your company has truly great employees, those workers carry value that simply cannot be replaced or quantified in an exchange. They carry deep institutional knowledge of the organization. They have extensive product knowledge, and process knowledge.

They hold client relationships that have been built over many years. They carry tremendous experience on what has worked and what hasn’t worked for the company in the past. And, great employees have camaraderie and influence with their co-workers, which when lost, has an impact on the corporate culture. Think of what the Twitter employees are feeling this weekend after that layoff announcement.

We can no longer sit idly by and pay lip service to our most important asset. We have to create an organization where we exhibit the value that we place in our people.

As my good friend Peter Makowski, CEO of American Hospital in Dubai, put it so eloquently,

My job is to take care of the people who take care of the people.”

If we as leaders lived by that mantra, we would all have our organizations running like a well-tuned engine.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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1 Comment on “Are You Exhibiting the Value That You Place in Your Employees?

  1. Your point about well-crafted (and wordsmithed to death) mission statements is well said. If your boots-on-the-ground frontline employees do not personally take ownership of your organization’s mission statement (they will if it specifically places value on them and their work), you’ve wasted a lot of time and money.

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