From the vault:

I had a fascinating conversation with a friend a few days ago who is on the verge of quitting his job. He’s always loved working where he is now, is friends with all of his colleagues, likes his boss, loves what he does… but the magic seems to be gone.

I was kind of curious about what happened to so radically change his point of view. Was it the customers? Nope. Was he being treated differently by his boss? No again. Had anything changed in the last six months? Niet.

So what was the problem?

His answer: “I’m just not happy there anymore.”

Interestingly, he isn’t the only one. Several of his coworkers have also seemed to me like they were just going through the motions in the past few weeks. They smile, but they aren’t excited about their jobs like they used to be. I know it isn’t burnout, but it sure looks like burnout. Something definitely isn’t right.

I guess it wouldn’t be a huge problem in and of itself, but I am beginning to hear from customers of this business that the magic is starting to fade for them too. Shopping there isn’t as fun as it used to be. They’ve started to shop around again. The business is doing great, but is starting to lose its edge. Its cool. Its uniqueness.

Before I go on with my story, check out this bit from a piece I wrote a few months ago that addresses this very issue: “Happy employees make happy customers.”

Likewise, unhappy employees make unhappy customers.

There are ways to make your employees happy. Perhaps more importantly, there are ways to make your employees feel proud. And no, rewarding them isn’t something you can fake or buy off with plaques and pins and little bonuses. It’s something that has to feel real.

If you want to inspire your customers, you first have to inspire your employees. If you want to do that, you have to make them feel like they truly are a part of your company and not just worthless pawns.

You have to make them feel like they are on a mission.

You have to make them feel good about the work they do for you.

Does that sound complicated? It really isn’t. It’s actually the simplest thing in the world. Starbucks is doing it. So is Apple. So is Loreal. So is Nike. So is Coca Cola.

Treat people with respect. Give them something worthwhile to do. Inspire them to be knights in your kingdom… or at least happy to be there for as long as they want to stay. That’s it. That’s all you really need to do to get things rolling in the right direction.

So… back to my story. Back to my friend and his career woes. Back to the fact that unhappy employees may not always make unhappy customers, but… they sure don’t make happy ones either. Back to what my friend told me next:

“I feel like we’ve all become commodities. We aren’t very high on (the boss’) priority list these days.” And then he went on to tell me what he meant.

Pow. There it was.

Broken windows also happen in your relationship with employees. The people who work for you are your brand at least as much as your products. They are your designers, your evangelists, your human touchpoints, your knights, your fans, your friends, your problem solvers, your band of brothers (and sisters). You can’t take them for granted. Perhaps more importantly, you can’t make them feel like you are. Ever. Not for one minute.

Pay them what they’re worth. Protect them. Empower them. Put your trust and faith in them. Don’t ever think for one second that they can be easily replaced.

Treat your employees like they’re your best customers.

That’s advice you can take to the bank.

🙂