Symbiosis: Building Healthy Employee Relationships

In nature, animals form life-long relationships with other animals to exist. These are called symbiotic relationships and they come in three varieties: mutually beneficial (called mutualism), relationships where one organism benefits and the other is harmed (called parasitism) and relationships where one organism benefits and the other neither benefits nor is harmed (call commensalism).

What kind of relationship does your company have with your employees?

If you think about the relationship you strive for with customers, and compare that to the time, effort – and especially resources – you put into your relationship with employees, I think you will probably find a gaping imbalance. In spite of lip-service slogans used by many corporations that “employees are our most important asset”, most corporations do not treat their employees as critical elements of the business.

Employees are the critical link to customers that many business neglect, and that wildly successful companies treat as their “secret weapon”. Building a symbiotic relationship with employees will lead to stronger relationships with customers and improved profitability. Begin by thinking about what you do for customers, and apply that to employees. Here are tips for creating a symbiotic company-employee-employer relationship (adapted from Vincent Kituku): he has identified tips on how to build a symbiotic relationship with your employees (or anyone, for that matter):

  1. Your Motivation. Clearly with customers, you want to deliver a benefit in a way that returns profits to you. The same is true for employees. You give them employment and they give you production. But the volume and quality of that production will vary depending on the relationship. Remember: “What you do for yourself can get you by. What you do for others is what will get you ahead.”; whether in your profession, spiritual pursuits or relationships.?
  2. Understand the Value Proposition. Just as you start a business by understanding what benefits your customers want and need that you can deliver, you must understand what your employees want and need from their relationship with you. You must be clear on what you both want from the association before you or your employees spend time, energy or tangible resources.
  3. Be Committed to Mutual Benefit. You understand that your customers will not purchase your products and services unless they benefit. Why should your employees behave differently? In a symbiotic relationship, both parties benefit: commit to that as a guiding principle for your business.
  4. Get feedback. Do you survey your customers? Do you have a customer advisor panel? Do you listen to customer complaints? You can’t maintain your customer relationships without feedback. And the same is true for your employee relationships. Use all of the tools you use with customers to solicit employee feedback at every possibility and then act on it.
  5. Continuous improvement. You don’t wait until you’re losing customers to change and improve your products to deliver additional benefits. You know that you have to be proactive to keep customers loyal. The same is true of your employees. Keep focused on improvement, even when the improvement is not demanded or expected.
  6. Communications. You spend a lot of money communicating with customers. How are you doing with your employee communications. Usually, internal and HR communications budgets are a paltry fraction of marketing communications spend. If you conduct email marketing campaigns with customers, use that tool for employee communications. Use the analytics – open rates, click throughs – to guage effectiveness. (Then see #5 above.) Make sure your internal company website and tools are every bit as good as what you deliver to customers.

If the purpose of a brand is to build an enduring relationship with customers, then you need to start with an enduring relationship with employees, so they can support the customer. You cannot separate the impact: like the oxpeckers who feed on the ticks on rhinoceros. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

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