Listening to Employees is Good Business

I was so inspired when I read this Fast Company blog about Vineet Nayar. Mr. Nayar is CEO of HCL Technologies, Ltd. (HCLT), an India-based global information technology services company, and author of the book Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down.

When Vineet Nayar became CEO of HCL Technologies in 2005, the company was in trouble. The IT firm was losing ground to major competitors. To address this, Mr. Nayar realized he needed to leverage the skills and talents of HCLT employees, because they were the ones dealing directly with his clients. This required a lot of face to face communication with employees at all levels. He also recognized something we have blogged about with regards to incentives: that employees value coming to work not simply to do their job but also to expand their learning opportunities.

The way HCLT decided they would remain relevant and able to compete in the global market was to become an employee centric company. Only by meeting the needs of employees would HCLT, and all other companies, be able to serve the needs of their customers.

The way Mr. Nayar approached the change in his company was to ask 5 questions (and answer them on behalf of HCLT):

  1. From where is your future growth coming? Emerging markets and emerging products and services
  2. What do you need to do ensure that you grow? Innovate
  3. Who will innovate? Your employees
  4. Has trust in senior management increased or decreased over the past two years? Decreased in most companies
  5. What will you do about it?

In particular, how you answer question 5, according to Nayar, determines how you and your company will succeed in the future. “The CEO will not be the one who thinks of the best and brightest ideas,” Nayar writes in Employees First, Customers Second. “The role of the CEO is to enable people to excel, help them discover their own wisdom, engage themselves entirely in their work, and accept responsibility for making change.” For that reason, HCLT provides training as well as mentoring and teaching opportunities for their employees.

In 2010, HCLT’s annual revenue was $2.7 billion USD as compared with $762 million USD in 2005. In 2009, HCLT was named Best Employer in India by Hewitt Associates, and BusinessWeek listed HCLT as one of the five most influential up-and-coming companies in the world. Fortune magazine has characterized HCL under Vineet’s leadership as having “the world’s most modern management.”

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.

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