You’re not building a company; you’re building a community

When you take good care of your employees, they will take good care of your customers
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Communities–whether families, clubs, churches, neighborhoods, or towns–form around relationship, trust, common values, and shared interests or experience.

Great companies are built on the same characteristics, with the addition of common purpose: to serve clients.

If you are a leader, you’re building more than a company; you are building a community.  

Just as your company is unique, so is the community you develop. More than the products or services you provide, it’s the sense of community you create that attracts and retains top talent.

The best business leaders put a lot of thought and effort into building communities that work for members, in this case employees. They treat their employees with the same care they treat customers. 

Employees are your internal customers. You want customers to return again and again to buy your products/services—and you want your employees to show up at work, day after day.

When both customers and employees are eager, that’s when you create business success. Like customers, employees are unique individuals. They experience your community differently and have different needs that should be catered to. 

When you take good care of your employees, they will take good care of your customers. And success follows.  

You create the best experiences for employees and customers alike when listening and communication serve as the pillars of your community. 

Today’s employees want leaders who not only listen, but hear, and they expect leaders to communicate with honesty and transparency. They want communities where respect, fairness, inclusiveness, flexibility, and celebration are shared values. 

Building the kind of workplace people want today requires leaders to switch their thinking from “culture” and “engagement” to a focus on employee experience and community. Everyone knows what a community is and how it feels to be in one.  

In the past, we haven’t thought of work as being personal, but it is, as is everything about our lives.

The best leaders realize they need to think about their employees holistically, recognizing the reality that people bring their whole selves to work every day.

They arrive with their needs, tragedies, health issues, family problems, lengthy commutes, and other stresses on their minds—as well as the desire to share their achievements and good news in their hearts.

What’s going on inside isn’t always evident on the outside and that’s why leaders need to create environments where everyone feels safe and comfortable being themselves.  

 Added to this complexity is that everyone isn’t working in the same place anymore. Many leaders wonder whether it’s still possible to build community in our new world of remote and hybrid environments. It is. Flexibility is the key, and technology tools help achieve a positive experience in every kind of circumstance.

Let employees discover for themselves how they work best. Listen to what they need and what they want, communicate clear expectations and guidelines, and then trust them to be productive in the way they are most comfortable working.

Working remotely can eliminate many of the personal issues employees have to deal with when being onsite, for example the high cost of childcare and caring for elderly or disabled relatives. Without those stresses, people are free to focus on getting the job done.  

After the past two years, people are exhausted, burned out, and waiting for the next shoe to drop. A sense of being out of control is shared by everyone in your company’s community.

You can help them get through this period by creating an employee experience where people come first. Continuously model the values and behaviors you want to see and show genuine interest in your people. 

When you dare to care for employees, you’re creating a resilient community that attracts top talent and retains them through current challenges and thrives on the other side of them.  

Kathleen Quinn Votaw Kathleen Quinn Votaw is CEO of TalenTrust. Her first book, Solve the People Puzzle; How High-Growth Companies Attract and Retain Top Talent, debuted in February 2016. Her firm has achieved several awards, including recognition from Inc.5000 in 2015 and 2016. She speaks frequently and advises CEOs on trends in talent and how to be strategic in developing a people strategy. Kathleen has served on several nonprofit boards including Colorado Companies to Watch and ACG-Denver. Reach Kathleen at or 303-838-3334.

Categories: Business Insights, Management & Leadership