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Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down Hardcover – June 8, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“In this short, personable book, he explains EFCS’s principles and how he put it to work at HCLT, turning the company’s fortunes around in just five years. The good news: EFCS strategies can work at your company, too.” — The Washington Post

“modern classic” — The Financial Times

From the Back Cover

"Rumor is that Vineet Nayar has invented a whole new way of configuring and
managing an enterprise. I think there's more than a grain of truth to that. I'm on
the verge of the verge of declaring that Mr. Nayar could be the next Peter Drucker."
--Tom Peters
Author of In Search of Excellence
"Employees are the heart and soul of every company. Vineet Nayar's book tells
the story of how management can step out of the way to let employees lead--
and to let engagement and productivity soar."
--Tony Hsieh
"By putting employees first and leveraging the power of social technology,
Nayar and his colleagues have created an organization that encourages extraordinary
contribution from everyone, every day. If you doubt that it's possible to turn the
pyramid upside down--or wonder whether it's really necessary--I urge you to read
this thoughtful and timely book!"
--Gary Hamel
Visiting Professor of Strategic and International Management, London Business School,
and author of The Future of Management
"Vineet Nayar has a revolutionary idea--that business relationships are personal
relationships, and that a successful company will understand and integrate that
philosophy. Nayar's notions of 'trust, transparency, and the romance of tomorrow'
will rejuvenate the corporate soul."
--Judy McGrath
"Vineet Nayar's new book describes his innovative and practical approach to kindling
a fire in employees and moving the social energy of an organization forward. With the
methods described in this book, Nayar enabled his Generation Y 'transformers' to
realize their potential faster, increased the capacity of the organization to create
value for its customers, and built his company into a world leader."
--Ram Charan
Coauthor of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
"This book offers an abundance of advice for business leaders looking to transform
their organizations by changing the culture. Nayar's lesson--that even a 'revolution'
in corporate culture is really just a series of small, achievable steps--will be invaluable
for both the new manager and the accomplished business leader."
--Victor K. Fung
Group Chairman, Li & Fung Group

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (June 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422139069
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422139066
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #481,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 and is amongst a select group of discussion leaders invited by Harvard Business Review to host a regular blog at This blog is aptly titled 'Inverted Wisdom.' You can also follow Vineet on twitter at

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Silea VINE VOICE on June 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Anyone who's ever been underpaid and undervalued by management can tell you how much harder they would have worked, how much better their work would have been, and how much more satisfied they would have been in their job if their bosses had made any efforts to respect their contributions. This is part of the basic premise of Employees First, Customers second. In short: if you treat your employees well and support them, they do better work and keep your customers happy. When you treat the people at the bottom of the pyramid like interchangeable parts, but they're the ones interacting with your customers, your customers are going to see it and your relationships with customers are going to suffer.

Mr. Nayar's book has several suggestions that apparently worked well for his company, and look great on paper: Realize that your customer-facing employees are far more important than their pay grade indicates, Increase transparency, Admit when times are tough instead of denying the elephant in the room, Make management and service departments accountable to employees. He gives examples of how his company did these things, and most of those methods seem fairly portable. In all, i'd love to work at a company that even tried to do these things, and i'd love to work with companies that respected their employees by putting them first.

I have a two complaints, one substantive and one superficial.

First, the substantive: repeatedly through the course of the book, Mr. Nayar says something to the effect of 'we had many successes, and many failures.' He never once describes a failure, an initiative that flopped, a new policy that did more harm than good. All we see is the raging successes. For an executive trying to reform their company, knowing what worked for Mr.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Just Me on February 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Decent, but nothing new. Poorly written. Not much meat here, unless you want to know the details (that is, facts) of the author's company (HCL Technologies); unfortunately, there are a lot of dry facts (we had X% of the market; our growth was Y%; etc.). Just not a lot of useful info here. The author references other books, such as The Trusted Advisor and The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, and I recommend that you just go straight to those books instead.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Warren Holzem on July 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What business owner wants to say to the world, "I don't put my customers first." But as established in the introduction, even before author Vineet Nayar tells the story of his company's transformation, an employee with a valuable skill set is an asset that's often harder to replace than some customer, especially in a field like information technology.

But this book isn't about theory. It's a case study told in first person. It's an interesting story, but there's not much of an attempt to illustrate how the concepts that worked for Mr. Nayar can work in other situations, too.

As others have pointed out, Mr. Nayar talks about his successes, but only alludes to his failures. That's understandable. We want to understand our failures, but not ncecessarily expose our weaknesses to the world. But it also gave the story of his company's transformation a one-dimensional quality.

I really was hoping for me. I was hoping not for just one company's experience, but some guidence on how a concept can be applied to other companies in other situations as well. I was over half done with the book before I realized that I wasn't going to find that if I just turned one more page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Philip R. Heath TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I work for a company that employs the philosophy of putting their employees first so I'm always interested to see how other companies do it. I found Vineet Nayar's Employees First, Customers Second to be an interesting and informative read. His style is very engaging, and it suggests to me that he actually lives out the principles that he outlines in his book.

Nayar reluctantly took over as CEO for HCLT in 2005 after having successfully started and run one of its subsidiaries. While HCLT was making money, they were losing their position among their peers in India, and they were not touching the big 4 global companies in the IT services space. Nayar outlines the transformation process that he and his team implemented that has made them a true success and sustained them during the economic downturn of 2008-09.

Here are a couple of things that you won't gather from the TOC or the book description on the product page. HCLT implemented the concepts outlined by using catalysts rather than major change initiatives or programs. Nayar tapped into the HCLT employee base to come up with ideas and empowered the employees to implement them. The other key theme is that despite the success that HCLT has had since 2005, they have not become complacent or satisfied.

While things look different at my company, I think that there is much to learn from this book. Nayar also presents his thoughts in a way that can be scaled down to the department or team level so that it is meaningful to leaders at all levels of an organization. This to me is the mark of a well written leadership book. Anytime a book stimulates thought and contains patterns that can be applied in other contexts, I'm interested. I highly recommend this to anyone in leadership.

Overall: A
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