Employees first, customers second | Vineet Nayar | TEDxAix

Employees first, customers second | Vineet Nayar | TEDxAix

Translator: Bob Prottas
Reviewer: Leonardo Silva Thank you so much. Just close your eyes for a minute. Just go ahead. Close your eyes for a minute. And imagine, that you’re standing
on the ledge of a building, which is 3 stories high, and imagine that the building is on fire, and if you knew that
the right answer for you is to jump in the next 30 seconds. How many of you would jump? I guess everybody. Imagine you are on that ledge
of a building, with your entire team, ten, hundred, thousand, and the building is on fire, and you are the only one
who knows the right answer is to jump in the next 30 seconds for all of you to be saved, and you turn to your team,
and you say: “Jump!” What do they do? They jump, because you said so. Or they don’t jump, because you said so. Think about it. I was standing on the ledge
of a building in 2005, with 25,000 of my colleagues, as the new leader,
and they looked up to me as to what to do next. I knew that the right answer is to jump but somewhere in my heart I knew that we as leaders
have done nothing to win the trust of our employees, and therefore, even if I say: “Jump!”, would they jump? Did they jump? I will come to that story in a bit,
but let’s rewind a bit, and tell you a story about how
did I get on the ledge of that building, in the first instance. In India, as is true
with many parts of the world, when a child is born,
it is considered auspicious for the grandmother —
I call her “Amma” — to walk up to the child —
she is the first to pick up the child and she picks up this child, in her hands, and defines a vision for that child. That vision has no data.
That vision has no logic. And she says: “Your fingers are so long,
you’ll be an artist.” “Your forehead is so wide,
you’ll be a NASA scientist.” Everybody in the family
believes in that vision. When the girl grows up
that vision becomes her ambition. Becomes her pursuit, and then
becomes her reality. I was fortunate to be born
in my Amma’s house. Those days children were born
in homes, not in hospitals, on this huge bed,
which could sleep 9 people, My Amma picked me up, and I guess I was waiting for this vision, and she picked me up,
and defined this vision, and said: “Vineet, this boy is going to do good, and he’s going to have a steady job.” What? I guess my grandmother
didn’t see anything, (Laughter) to say something more profound. But not true. Twenty three years later,
armed with this MBA degree I walked through the corridors
of my first job at HCL. Four weeks later,
I was called into the room with these 4 grim looking people who had this single sheet of paper
in front of them. They sat me down, and said: “Vineet, we don’t think you fit
into our organization.” I don’t know what
I was most disappointed about, The fact that I was rejected, or the fact that even that vision
that my grandmother thought of me has collapsed. (Laughter) I still remember that night. It was very long, very painful,
very frustrating. But by that time the morning came,
my life had changed. With the sun rays
I made 2 commitments to myself. The first, that I will do
everything in my power to outsmart these self-proclaimed gods, who believe in leading by rejecting, rather than accepting. And second, that one day, I will be
the CEO of this company, and show them the way. Somebody has rightly said: “You need to be a bit careful
about what you wish.” Two decades later,
time had turned a full circle, The chairman of HCL,
who’s a brilliant man, with uncanny intuition and foresight, invited me to be the CEO of HCL. I was afraid, not that I was
not happy to be a CEO, but I was afraid, not because
my first commitment was turning right, but my second commitment,
that did I know how to lead by accepting, rather than rejecting. And I said:
“How would I know, unless I try?” And that is the reason
I was on that ledge of the building with 25,000 other employees, who were waiting
for my direction to jump. Because we wanted to transform HCL
to be the best company in the world. Transform is a very interesting word. Changing the form
of something permanently. In my mind, you can transform
the company in 2 ways. First, by innovating in what you do,
which is the obsession of the world. To be a Google, to be a Facebook,
to be a Tesla. But it is a more interesting,
human way of transforming yourself using innovation about how
you treat your employees, about how you run your company. By increasing the clock speed
of your organization, you can actually outperform
all your competition, with the same product,
the same customer, the same market. Why don’t people get it? Our journey of thinking
about innovation on the how-axis rather than what-axis
started with 3 fundamental questions. The first: what is the business we are in? And our answer, we are in the business
of creating unique experiences, unique value for our customers,
and the more unique we are, the higher market share we will create. Second question. Where does this unique experience,
unique value get created, and who creates this unique experience,
and unique value? Answer, it gets created where
our customers and our employees meet. In that interface, we call the value zone, and our employees in that value zone
create that unique experience. Thus, the third question. If our employees are the unique value, are creating the unique value,
which helps us grow faster, then what should the role of managers
and management in any company be? And the obvious answer for us was nothing but enthusing, encouraging,
enabling those employees to create the unique experience so that we can grow faster. What is not obvious about that? And that is how employees first,
customer second was born, where the management is in the business of enthusing, encouraging,
enabling people, and employees are in the business
of customers first. Ideas are great, but they are — many, many of them fail
under pedestal of execution. Our study of revolutions, our study
of Indian revolutions with Mahatma Gandhi came to the shores of India in 1915 with this inspirational idea of non-violence. He came to the shores — In 1915 we had this inspirational leader,
with the inspirational idea, and yet it took 32 years
for India to gain independence. So we started revolutions, we started
transformations on sports teams, we started organization transformations,
and came down with what we call “three steps for successful execution.” The first was,
create unhappiness with today. There were so many of my colleagues
on that ledge, who didn’t want to jump because they did not think
anything was wrong with the company. I’m sure that is not happening
in your company, that people are slicing
and dicing the data to look good. I don’t think this is happening. But if you’re slicing and dicing
the data to look good, then how would that change happen? It is important to say: “Mirror, mirror on the wall,
I am the ugliest of all.” A diamond cutter gets excited
with rough diamond, not polished diamond. A potter gets excited with rough clay. What you need
in your organizations to transform, are those diamond cutters,
the plumbers, and the potters, who believe in challenges. Then show them the challenge,
and they will fix it for you. So we throw all our dirty linen
in public for everybody to see, so that it was not about whether
we are performing or not, it was what can we do with this —
the word I can’t say — (Laughter) The second, is defining a vision
for tomorrow, which is so compelling that people with jump out their bed,
and go work for you. Freedom. Where is that vision in our organization? Why does an employee, on a Sunday, spend his money,
time, energy, drive to a mosque, a mandir, and a church, and feel good about it? And why does the same employee get paid to come
to our organizations on Monday, and feel bad about it? Because organizations have a vision,
and a purpose for themselves, they don’t have a vision,
and purpose for that employee. Employee first was and experiment
to invert the organization pyramid, by inspiring people to do
what they wanted to do, better than what we wanted them to do. The question we ask ourselves: If we could inspired these people
to pursue a vision which is their vision, and that vision is aligned
with our vision, magic will happen. And it did. The third step was:
How do we move from here to there? We have created dissatisfaction
with today, a vision for tomorrow. How do we move? And the answer was, high performance teams attempt to do
what others consider impossible. So unless in your life and your teams
you are attempting to do the impossible, how can you ever think
of high performance? So 1 idea which worked at HCL was the fact that we opened
a 360-degree survey of all our managers, including the CEO. So all our employees
did confidential surveys, 360-degree survey, anonymously
of everybody including their CEOs from 32 countries, and the results
were published on the web for all to see. With one stroke,
we had democratized the organization, we had inverted the pyramid, and now the employees were owning
the change they wanted to see. So many asked me this question
in terms of: “Vineet, did this succeed?” Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know for a fact that 25,000 brilliant individuals jumped that summer of 2005, and when they landed, they were 100,000. They grew the company six fold,
in the peak of recession, in 7 years. They were number 1
in customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and did everything
which others considered impossible. The second question I’m asked is: “Vineet, would this initiative
outlast a leader?” Remember my grandmother
had defined a second vision, that you would do good. Me and my wife started a foundation, and today we are reaching out
to 2.8 million poor children, in rural schools across India, by innovating on how education
is delivered to them. And for these last 2 years, HCL has outperformed
whatever they did in my tenure. So this story is not about me. This story is not about those brilliant
25,000 or 100,000 employees, but this story is about
our grandmother’s wish, our grandmother’s sense of leadership. So can we hold this employee in our hands? Can we define a vision for her? Can everybody believe,
and trust us in that vision, and go work for that vision? Can that employee trust us,
and make that vision her ambition, her pursuit, and then her reality? Employee first is that leap of faith
every single employee deserves from every single manager in the world. Please stand up, all of you,
please stand up. Please join me in making this commitment, that we are going to make
employee first a reality for millions of people who walk
through our organizations, not just to get paid, but to be inspired by the vision you have for them. Thank you. (Applause)


  • Maneesh Choudhary says:

    I joined HCL Technologies in year 2010 when Vineet was the CEO. What made me his fan was his enthralling speeches, employees centric approach and his sheer personailty. He used to address all 89000 employees every year!, asking their problems and then giving answers to them. He is a perfect mentor.
    I am still at HCL and try to teach same values to my team. Watch this video and you will understand each and every word of my comment 🙂

  • Upasana dubey says:

    Other organisations should learn something from this video.

  • Anandan Pillai says:

    It's a insightful video for top leaders to understand how important it is to empower your employees. Just by empowering its employees HCL Technologies not only sailed through a difficult time, but it infused enormous confidence in its employees and encouraged them to strive continuously for their personal and organizational development. It's a much watch video.

  • abhinav singh says:

    Very Inspiring. I agree, there are times when your very own decision can affect life of thousands. No doubts why Mr. Nayar has been elected as the best employer in Asia!

  • ananya garg says:

    Words can be so strong to inspire the world. A real inspiring video. Indeed, it's important to inspire and motivate your employees.

  • Ankur Banerjee says:

    Mr. Vineet has always been an inspiration to many. A leader to always look out for insights and knowledge on corporate culture. Great video 🙂

  • megha dhawan says:

    Leap of faith is all that takes. Agree 🙂 Inspiring speech 🙂

  • Prashant Saini says:

    It's really very inspiring …

  • parulbehl says:

    This is what an employee expects from a manager. A leader which motivates him and unleashes his potential.

  • Anirban Mozumdar says:

    I have stood up and taken the commitment to make employees first a reality for my employees. Vineet, Sir, thank you for the amazing inspiration. Above all, the powerful evocation – will they jump with you? Because you say so? I wondered. transformational. You continue to impact lives in more ways than you know.

  • Sanjeev Ahuja says:

    Very Inspiring. I totally agree with his beautiful insight in being careful of what we wish and second how take the responsibility to transform once we are there… Vineet's vision has been powerful for each employee of HCL and it was wonderful been part of the culture

  • Dipika Pillay says:

    Powerful message on employee empowering! Must watch for every corporate worker 🙂

  • Gunjan Sharma says:

    Very motivating and inspiring. Employees First, Customers Second is a great concept.

  • gopalan parthasarathy says:

    I loved listening to Mr Vineet Nayar, after a good 10 years. I consider it privilege of my entire career to have been part of the transformation journey, although only for 2 years, HCL started under stewardship of Mr Vineet Nayar, undoubtedly a most inspiring contemporary thought leader of our times, in disciplines of management and leadership.

  • Reni Kovács says:


  • JEET SHARMA says:

    Very motivating and inspiring. Vineet, you are really missed at HCL.

  • Pradeep Mishra says:

    Yes, One of great leader i ever see.

  • Christina says:

    The motto of HCL should be "Employees – First to Get F-ed!" I worked for HCL for three years as an American female and it was a hellish work experience.

  • Hitesh Bajpai says:

    Great thoughts Vineet Sir…hope this turns out to reality some day.



  • Suresh Kumar says:

    It is not practical at all. He says something and does something else and just few words for marketing campaigns fooling the world to get more projects.

  • Suman Sharma says:

    Good evening Sir !!! Its being 3 yrs i have been longing to meet you… I have read your words and watched your Video on EFCS and i find it quite inspirational, confident and full of faith.
    I consider both verbal and non-verbal words of yours highly valuable and challenging.
    For instance you spoke of the "Challenge for any leader"

    "The challenge for any leader is to create a workplace that stimulates creativity and innovative thinking. Vineet speaks from very rich experience that has allowed him to create environments that encourage people to venture into the gap that separates the ordinary from the extraordinary, and encourages people to make what seems impossible- possible".

    And whatever you spoke about EFCS is all correct and revolutionary, but not every manager & leader in HCL is following the vision you sought for HCLites. Not all managers & HR's are into business of Encouraging,inspiring, Enthusing and giving the employees a freedom for thoughts..for innovative ideas..inspite of this some of them are into the business of humiliating and suppressing the challenging and unique employees…some of such employees are overloaded by stress and frustration due to Managers & HR's behavior as they don't keep faith in their employees and their challenging work…and then they conspire and flush the Challenging vision of an ordinary employee out of the organisation.."No matter what will be the mental state of highly challenging up growing youth who dreams to be the Real HCLites".
    Sir you talked about 360 degree survey..its good..but it wasn't open to every employee of HCL…HR's used to come for this survey..and it was up to them to " whom they wish to circulate it" and even there was 1 to 1 sessions with HR's which were not meant for employee who aspires to walk extra-miles….

    My experience with HCL was drastic, though I had dreamt of making my dreams come true being an employee of HCL Comnet system & services ltd.sector-16 noida….but  EFCS doesn't worked for me…and i was into big mental loss due to less wisdom of self-purposed..self-visioned Managers and HR's………nmrk nmrk nmrk

  • Suman Sharma says:

    i spent 5-6 months in total with HCL..n i would love to quote that "I became HCL YUMMY QUEEN" &"I too was a pt. of Attraction on Christmas Eve..as i partcipated in the event organised & won "LADY SANTA AWARD "..till i was dere i enrolled my self in every activity of HCLites..though it was a challenge for me..due to bullying nature of my seniors & SPOCS…and i was nowhere lacking in work..as i had the desire to work at the best…its long time now but..i can still answer the queries of my profile…our floor was never open for freedom of thoughts..

  • Jaspreet Dhanjal says:

    Great inspiring thoughts Vineet!

  • pappu hazarika says:

    Brilliant speech

  • Alessandro Frioli says:

    fucking indians

  • Sam Webb says:

    HI. I like your channel. I subscribed. Could I possibly get a sub back?

  • Mary J Hayes says:

    I worked at HCL for a few years, and oberved them specializing primarily in BS, Propaganda, and Appearance, not substance.  On American soil, very few Americans had the slightest chance of advancment.  It was the rule, not the exception, to bring H1B workers to do jobs that Americans could've done better.  Their imported workers had little choice but to check check their email, answer cell phone, and login to perform work after hours, and on weekends, and had little choice but to completely tolerate constant insult, disprespect, and condescencion, or be shipped back home.  At least American workers can quit, and go work elsewhere.  American companies that contract HCL guilty of creating a harsh work environment, and sending American money overseas.  Oh by the way, sometimes HCL goes through staffing companies, when hiring American workers, and sometimes those staffing companies are also headquartered offshore.

  • Daniel LePell says:

    Employees first customers second… So that's why Indian IT support is so bad..
    Thanks man…..

  • Maureen O’Connell says:

    Totally agree with Vineet, Every organization must think about their employees first so that the employees will work with more dedication and the end result will be a happy customer, a happy employee, and a successful organization.

  • Belinda Annette Komuntale says:

    Great and Inspirational Leaders are in sync with their people-they have a purpose for their people. I am always inspired by his humility and down to earth yet results oriented leadership style.

  • Tanuj Poddar says:

    On a lighter note: By making everyone stand just before ending his speech, he ensured that he got a standing ovation. 😉

  • Said Abshir says:


  • Ivonne Teoh says:

    Wow! Love this idea. Our grandmother's vision for us when we were born. The CEO or leader of your organisation can act as that grandmother. To give a vision for that person's life (not limited to work only) that would inspire them and others to support them. Vineet Nayar gave an inspiring talk!

  • UniworldCityGGaon says:

    The comments from USA based employees here provide insight. In corporate life, there's a serious gap between Bushido and Bullshido..The wise person learns the difference asap??

  • Azard Mohamed says:


  • Deepak V Imandi says:

    What a video man! Nice to see an Indian CEO take steps like this and inspiring the world 🙂

  • Regish Babu says:

    HCL today is minting good money but no where comes close to the most innovative companies in the world.. The current ceo CVK can not be anywhere in the vicinity of Vineet nayar

  • GoodGoy SoiBoi says:

    Street shitters have the worst accent ever

  • hari prasad says:

    HCL.. employee first and customer second..!!! I don't believe that.

  • Brendan says:

    he speaks so slowly

  • Vidisha Roy says:

    very boring, I slept

  • revolut says:

    3 minutes in and he says nothin

  • ANIL BABU says:

    I loved it

  • Mrinal Krant says:

    Organisations have vision and purpose for themselves, not for people! You said all!

  • Gopal Krishna Agarwal says:

    Brilliant speech. Kudos to this vision of "Employee First" 👏👏

  • Sumant Sinha says:

    HCL do not pay well for thier existing employees 😭

  • Payal Jalu says:

    Employee is business heartbeat

  • Cinematic Camera 4K says:

    Whatever great thought which might be worked or working in some cases is not something we need to discuss, when we say whatever in limited sense means we need to work more rather accepting…

  • Federico García says:

    Really inspiring speech!

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