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Good Leaders Treat Their Employees Like CEOs. Here's 4 Ways They Do It. Despite the employee downturn, people-first companies should adapt to a new reality where line workers are the actual business managers.

By Vitaly Alexandrov Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Companies and new hires must remember that business is a two-way street. Businesses can't simply hire and keep whoever will stay at the expense of customer experience, as employees are the proper management of any business.

While employees are not irreplaceable, they're essential for the health and success of a company and businesses should react right now. In an age where employees seem to hold all the power, it's important to prioritize their needs and goals.

Related: This Is What Employees Believe Makes a Great Leader

Here's what it looks like when employees have the power

Companies still think that they have to choose between prioritizing customers and employees, but they forget that a powerful customer experience starts with an employee-first approach. From a business perspective, a great employee experience drives revenue.

The pandemic forced employers to prioritize customers over line workers as businesses' first priority was ensuring long-term success. However, in the gig economy, workers struggle from worker insecurity and a lack of fundamental working rights with guarantees.

The current trend is that employees choose the company, forcing companies to feel pressured to "put their best foot forward," thanks to the Great Resignation. Hopefully, worker situations for line employees will improve because of this pressure.

Businesses forget that employees and managers are in the trenches more than any CEO or top manager. They deal more closely with the day-to-day routine, so they have a better eye for what their teams need. It used to be called a front-line paradox: front-line employees are often the first to sense impending change but the last to be heard within an organization.

Yes, management and founders play a critical role in a company's success, but treating employees as a means to an end is detrimental. As many industries are finding out with this labor shortage, they need this so-called "disposable" workforce far more than they realize.

Again, it's all about balance. It's possible to empower line workers without diminishing the value and profits of a business. Even from a purely business standpoint, it's better to develop and maintain a steady team rather than churning through workers.

Here are four ways your business can adapt to this changing employee climate.

1. Create a positive mindset

Treat your team with a genuinely people-first mindset. Offer workplace training, seek to promote from within and strongly emphasize a team atmosphere where we're all built up together.

Treating employees as robots or disposable objects to be used up and replaced is a mistake. For many years this was the norm and the pandemic has finally brought these harmful practices into the spotlight.

2. Believe in your people and let them grow

Believing in your employees is essential to success, especially if you run a startup in a rapid growth phase. This means that promotions should happen quickly. Hire people with varied backgrounds and welcome them to your team. For example, I have hired both a successful opera singer and a previously homeless person; both have been tremendous assets to our mission!

Related: How Real Leaders Coach Their Employees For Success

3. Collect insight

Best Buy asked its front-line employees to forecast how certain events would affect retail sales. Front-line employees' collective forecasts are often more accurate than official forecasts.

Ask your team to bring ideas to the table and let them initiate discussions and innovation. But remember that this will be for a loss if they don't feel valued and empowered. For example, Food Rocket's bag stamp was handmade by an employee. Another team member took the initiative to create awards, bonus programs and honors to recognize and reward hard workers.

Related: How to Let Your Employees Know They're Your Heroes

4. Break down boundaries

Finally, it's the job of the CEO and upper management to be approachable and always available to every person in the company. Management is not lofty overseers; they are part of the same team as everyone else.

I tell my team that this isn't just a gig. If they want to take ownership of their role, they have access to training that will help them in all future endeavors.

Treating your line employees like management means giving them the same level of access to you. Access is powerful; it helps your team feel like their thoughts, opinions and concerns matter.

Many competitors don't share these views, but we all hope to see that change in the future. When you take care to hire people who are bright and ambitious, it's wise to make them feel like they can contribute thoughts and ideas and be rewarded for their efforts.

Ultimately, the takeaway for CEOs and top management is that it's perfectly normal for line employees to have power in the workplace. It's preferable, especially in today's economy. Get your team involved in business, empower your workers to feel like they matter and remember that everyone has an equal measure of greatness to contribute to your business.

Vitaly Alexandrov

Founder & CEO at Food Rocket

Vitaly Alexandrov is a serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO at Food Rocket, a startup that provides 15-minute grocery delivery. He previously founded award-winning CRM agency Out of Cloud and is the author of the best-selling book "Email Marketing Strategy."

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