There are 3 main groups of people associated with any business, namely the customers, shareholders and employees.
However, the order of importance in most companies are
Shareholders > Customers > Employees
And rightfully so.
Shareholders are the owners of the business, and why do they start a business? To make INSANE amount of money, of course. So they naturally want (and need) to take their own interest in the first place.
And what better way to make the shareholders happier by being customer oriented? Companies come up with tailored solutions and products for the customers, regardless of how much effort it takes.
And that's where the problem lies. Employees are treated as the bottom of the company hierachy (never mind how much companies keep emphasizing that employees matter). And they are forced in most cases, to do the stuffs to satisfy the customers' needs, even if they don't sound logical.
Flexibility is offered is keep the customers, but often not offered to employees, despite all the work-life balance that the Human Resource Department will preach.
In contrast, Richard Branson (my idol), owner of the Virgin Group reverses the cycle.
Employees > Customers > Shareholders
Employees's needs are addressed first. After all, these are the guys who are giving up a huge portion of their lives (no doubt in exchange for the company's salary) to help the company grow. Happier employees are more likely to be better workers, stay around longer, and be able to treat the organisation like a family, than just purely a workplace.
As employees are empowered to make decisions, they become smarter and more adaptable with addressing the customer's needs. They don't have to consult their superior for every single thing - they may make mistakes, but they become better with each mistake made.
With happy, empowered and smart employees, the customers are better served. Satisfied customers lead to better sales and thus reaping more value to the company, and thus shareholders, the "least important" people in the company, are laughing all the way to the bank!
About the Author: Shingo T never fails to get amazed at how the Virgin Group pays lesser salary than its competitors, and yet so many people want to work for it.