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Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down [Hardcover]

Vineet Nayar
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2010
One small idea can ignite a revolution just as a single matchstick can start a fire.

One such idea - putting employees first and customers second - sparked a revolution at HCL Technologies, the IT services giant.

In this candid and personal account, Vineet Nayar - HCLT's celebrated CEO - recounts how he defied the conventional wisdom that companies must put customers first, then turned the hierarchical pyramid upside down by making management accountable to the employees, and not the other way around.

By doing so, Nayar fired the imagination of both employees and customers and set HCLT on a journey of transformation that has made it one of the fastest-growing and profitable global IT services companies and according to BusinessWeek, one of the twenty most influential companies in the world.

Chapter by chapter, Nayar recounts the exciting journey of how he and his team implemented the employee first philosophy by:

  • Creating a sense of urgency by enabling the employees to see the truth of the company's current state as well as feel the "romance" of its possible future state
  • Creating a culture of trust by pushing the envelope of transparency in communication and information sharing
  • Inverting the organizational hierarchy by making the management and the enabling functions accountable to the employee in the value zone
  • Unlocking the potential of the employees by fostering an entrepreneurial mind-set, decentralizing decision making, and transferring the ownership of "change" to the employee in the value zone

Refreshingly honest and practical, this book offers valuable insights for managers seeking to realize their aspirations to grow faster and become self-propelled engines of change.

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Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down + Maverick!: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace + Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press (1 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422139069
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422139066
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 15.2 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

"How can a company "take a chip out of the marble façade of the office of the CEO?" asks Vineet Nayar - a provocative question coming from someone who himself is a CEO. One method: Post his 360 feedback on the intranet for all employees to see."

A passionate yet disruptive thinker, Vineet has infused HCL with a unique brand of energetic leadership. Convinced that leadership lies at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy, his Employee First, Customer Second philosophy nurtures this talent ground up. The success of this radical transformative approach has received recognition at Harvard Business School and institutions across the world. Fortune magazine coins his leadership style as "The world's most modern management".

Since 2005, when he became President and later CEO of HCL Technologies, Vineet has led a remarkable turnaround that saw the company triple its revenues and income growth. The value-based leadership simultaneously resulted in the company being ranked by Hewitt Associates as the Best Employer in India and by BusinessWeek amongst the top five most influential companies in the world.

Beyond the corporate sphere, Vineet is also a founding member of the Asia Gender Parity Group at World Economic Forum (WEF), an active member of India Council for Sustainable Development (ICSD) steering committee, and has also established a non-profit organization called SAMPARK in 2004 which has a vision of "creating a million smiles" through improving the quality, infrastructure and opportunity for education to the underprivileged.

Vineet is an avid blogger. He hosts his own blog at www.vineetnayar.com and is amongst a select group of discussion leaders invited by Harvard Business Review to host a regular blog at http://discussionleader.harvardbusiness.org/nayar. This blog is aptly titled 'Inverted Wisdom.' You can also follow Vineet on twitter at http://twitter.com/vineetnayar

Product Description


Nayar's devotion to employees may be the best way to maximise long-term shareholder value. --The Economist, April 22, 2010

[Nayar] has a management philosophy...that has been garlanded with awards. Some fans, such as Bill Clinton, take it very seriously. --The Sunday Times, May 9, 2010

The book explains the methods Nayar used to accelerate the exceptional growth of HCLT...this is an excellent book. --The Financial Times, June 3, 2010

Nayar has produced a refreshingly new take on two things: The way business books are written, and the way businesses should be run. --wordandmouth.com, June 29, 2010

The complete inside out story of how to achieve a change in the way your employees think and act...
--ILM Edge magazine, July 1, 2010

A compelling mix of personal anecdote, frank admissions of doubt plus insights into how to drive a transformation. --HR Insights, 5th August 2010

Well presented, challenging ideas that should be widely read. --Professional Manager, 1 November 2010

Many people can say this sort of stuff. The difference is, Nayar has done it...the book explains how. --Irish Times, August 2010

Nayar's 'Employees First' model for employee engagement turned HCL from a second-tier Indian IT firm into the country's fourth largest. --Financial Times, 7 October 2010

About the Author

Vineet Nayar is the CEO of HCL Technologies Ltd., India's leading global IT Services Company. Fortune magazine called his leadership style "The World's Most Modern Management" and the London Business School labelled him "the leader of organizational innovation." IDC recognized him as having "the most cohesive and articulate vision" in the IT services sector.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
As I began to read this book, I recalled again the comments of Southwest Airlines' then chairman and CEO, Herb Keller, when asked to explain his company's competitive advantage: "Our people. We take good care of them, they take good care of our customers, and our customers take good care of our shareholders." Vineet Nayar's concept of Employers First, Customers Second (EFCS) could be misunderstood to mean that an organization's customers have secondary importance. In fact, as Nayar explains, customers are the ultimate beneficiaries of EFCS. Kelleher makes the same point in the remarks quoted earlier.

Here's the challenge for C-level leaders: How to establish and then sustain am employee-centric organization? Nayar write this book in response to that question but I think he has accomplished much more than he may have originally intended. With all due respect to the importance of crating what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as "customer evangelists" in a book that bears that title, I think Nayar is advocating an even more important role for employees' relations with customers: as co-creators. He advocates "inverting the management pyramid," beginning with front-line employees, and fulfill aspiration needs, notably the need to give everyone a sense of purpose, to address the need for what Dave and Wendy Ulrich call "gthe why of work."

I agree with Nayar that customers should be among those who are centrally involved in an inside-out transformational process by which to adopt, implement, and then strengthen an organization, guided and informed by an open business model such as the one Henry Chesbrough describes: "A business model performs two important functions: it creates value and it captures a portion of that value.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a must for business leaders 12 Jun 2010
I have been in IT industry for reasonably long time. I never worked as a manager and I enjoy my technical role. Customers first was what we get used to. This book puts customers first in a very different and in my opinion the only right way. I ordered this book a couple of days ago and when I received it I wasn't able to put it down. Mr Vinnet style is direct and blunt and still beautiful and attractive. "Unless the company becomes obsessed with constant change for the better, gradual change for the worse usually goes unnoticed." is the core of the book. Focusing on how and not only on what gives business leaders a real life experience.
I like his classification of his employees to three groups:transformers, lost souls and fence sitters. This is true in any company I believe.
I recommend this great book for any one who is running his own business or leading or transforming a business.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars exceptional case study, must read... 20 Jun 2010
Must read for leaders and managers, employers and employees.... exceptional case study about how simplicity can do magic....

The magic that Ford's "Assembly Line", Toyota's "Kanban", Dell's "Global Supply Chain" and Google's "Revenue Model" did to the manufacturing, supply chain and eCommerce, HCLT's "Employee First Customers Second" is going to do to service industry.

The book is first person narration of Vineet Nayar (CEO, HCL Technologies), through the transformation journey In HCL Technologies. Fast-paced, realistic, to the point, comprehensive, straight forward, solution oriented, bold but humble and stimulating.... may be provoking..

In the book, author narrates simple catalysts and tweaks that transformed HCL and those that are transforming HCL to be leader in IT. These can be applied to any enterprise or organisation, big or small, indeed already been or being applied in some shape or form - focus on value zone like Ford, Toyota, Dell and Google did in their businesses.

The journey is described in four stages, as mentioned in the book: looking in the mirror, creating trust through transparency, inverting the pyramid and transferring the responsibility for change to all.

Book is more like a travelogue, full of passion, excitement, celebration and achievement.

I couldn't stop reading, since I picked up and writing this review immediately completing amazing 185 pages.

-- ashutosh jhureley
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull 29 Aug 2013
By Deb
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was expecting to be wowed by this book but was not impressed. Was recommended to read this but found it dull and uninspiring
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Vineet Nayar has produced a summarized account of the turnaround he helped mastermind at HCLT, a leading Indian IT company in this book. While accounts of this sort often risk turning into an advertorial for the company or the CEO, in this case I would say the author managed to successfully thread the thin line and deliver content first, with the company itself remaining more in the background.

The premise - somewhat provocatively named 'employees first, customers second' - is that often most value in companies is generated at the bottom layers of the pyramid and that it is exactly those people there that should be empowered by management, so as to deliver the maximum value to the customer. In the end, as the author repeatedly mentions, this does not mean putting the customer second as such, it just means that priorities internally should lie with enabling the employees to be as effective at solving customer issues, as possible.

Specific issues tackled are the role of management, communication channels, reorganizing support functions, blue skies strategies, etc. If you have been working in a larger company in the recent years, you will definitely recognize some of the approaches - such as ticket systems for support functions (although if the companies I have worked with in the last years are indicative of the whole, this has been sadly successfully resisted by all but IT departments), various blogs and other social media like platforms enabling employees to confront top management with inadequacies they face in their daily work lives, etc. What I find refreshing is the introduction of those as a coherent whole, with clear objectives behind and a constant development.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Open mind reading
Excellent publication as long as it's read with an open mind as it does make.
Recommended flex your board room colleagues
Published 17 days ago by Glenn S
4.0 out of 5 stars Indeed, exciting book !!
I worked at company where all concept described in this book had been implemented (though, not fully and only 70% or so). Read more
Published 1 month ago by jackOfAll
4.0 out of 5 stars This book shows that traditional thinking about employees is going to...
Inspiring book about how a company called upon the creativity and genius of its employees to turn the company around and involve people and their strengths into teams, systems and... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Miss Kathleen Ginn
4.0 out of 5 stars simple but brilliant
This book is very simple but powerful. The EFCS method is simple common sense but how many managers out there are brave enough to follow this concept. Read more
Published 11 months ago by dk
5.0 out of 5 stars Really great for motivating culture changes
Really enjoyed this book especially when you can clearly see ways that this could benefit an organisation with a need for improvement in culture. Read more
Published 16 months ago by DougW
5.0 out of 5 stars Employees First, Customers Second
When author Vineet Nayar stepped in as president of India's storied global IT firm, HCL Technologies (HCLT), the corporation was doing all right. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Rolf Dobelli
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiring Business Story (All Proceeds to Charity)
This is the simple story of how one man went about the challenging task of running a huge almost directionless global conglomerate into a cutting edge innovate group of companies... Read more
Published on 30 Oct 2011 by Mr. William Oxley
5.0 out of 5 stars Common sense - but surprisingly uncommonly done
Nayar identifies the part of the organisation that creates value - the people who work for the customers. Read more
Published on 24 Oct 2011 by Hugo Minney
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read for managers
A really good & simple read - the author (Vineet) makes innovative management easy to understand & appreciate, through casual storytelling & challenging the status quo to get... Read more
Published on 18 Sep 2011 by CMA (London)
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful concepts but an easy read
This makes an enormous change sound deceptively easy. I'm sure most organisations would struggle to implement this approach. Read more
Published on 11 April 2011 by N. Bettes
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