Consider this question: Whose needs must be met first for businesses to succeed – the shareholder, the employee or the customer? For some people, the answer is clear cut, a no-brainer. Others will reply, “it depends” as the answer will be found in the most compelling case made by any of the three stakeholders. Mostly, though, the answer is obvious—it’s the employee. When it comes to creating the conditions for business success, the needs of the employee must always come first. Customers and shareholders ultimately benefit from the contribution of employees who either make or break the success of the business.
This way of thinking is quite similar to the philosophy of Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, a company that was consistently successful while its competitors endured bankruptcies and losses. Building a strong corporate culture that emphasized good, fair treatment of employees and making work fun has been the hallmark of Kelleher’s tenure and legacy. Southwest employees are treated well. They love their jobs and it shows in the way they treat their customers.