From The FieldFormer Amadeus, American Express and TRX leader Vic Pynn is enthusiastic about opportunities for companies to improve their appreciation and nurturing of human resources. Continuing his contributions to industry dialogue on leadership, mentoring and talent retention, here he highlights the reasons for putting people first and how to do so.

I am amazed at the amount of time, money and effort organizations spend on product enhancements, marketing campaigns and other tactics to differentiate themselves from the competition. Often these efforts come up short while the biggest differentiator – people – goes unnoticed.

A company’s key constituent groups are customers, shareholders and employees. Most organizations spend an inordinate amount on the first two rather than putting their people first. Proof of this came from a benchmark study that revealed 79 percent of people who quit their jobs cited “lack of appreciation.” A recent Gallup study reported that 53 percent of employees were simply “not engaged.” Therefore, it stands to reason that if organizations put their employees first, they would see better results with their customers and, in turn, their shareholders.

Three Ways To Put People First

How does a company go about putting people first?

Vic Pynn
Travel industry veteran Vic Pynn

1. Build trust. Elevating people begins by creating an environment where employees can trust their leaders. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, 58 percent of respondents trust total strangers over their bosses. This is a scary notion because without trust in the workplace, there will be no risk-taking. That kills innovation.

2. Recognize their value. Employees desire work environments where they can make impactful contributions and earn recognition. Studies showed that employees rated recognition above higher pay, promotion, autonomy or training. Making an impact and receiving recognition fosters well-being, which boosts employee engagement.

3. Offer development opportunities. Employees want to learn and grow through developmental opportunities. Gone are the days when we expected our employees to sit in the same chair or do the same job for 20 years.

What’s A Leader To Do?

Senior leaders in today’s organizations must wake up and place a renewed focus and priority on leadership. This includes making sure leaders are trained in creating dynamic environments for their employees. A study showed that 58 percent of leaders surveyed did not receive any leadership training before assuming their role. They were promoted into these roles due to past accomplishments as individual contributors, yet had no idea how to lead.

By not investing in people, companies experience disengagement, attrition and higher costs. According to Leigh Branham, author of “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave,” 89 percent of bosses believed employees quit because they wanted more money. As much as any boss would love this statistic to be true (because it basically exempts a manager from wrongdoing) it simply isn’t. In reality, according to Branham, only 12 percent of employees leave an organization for more money.

As the old saying goes, “People don’t leave companies; they leave leaders.”

Organizations that make the commitment to grow and develop their people will not only win the talent war, but also win over their customers and shareholders. Now that’s the differentiator everyone wants.

• Vic Pynn On Three Questions Every Industry Leader Must Ask
• Duane Futch On Understanding Executive Leadership In A Travel Management Environment
• A Few Minutes With CFO Magazine Deputy Editor Dave McCann
• ‘No Great Answer’ In Search For Corporate Agents
• Traveler Engagement: (Hard) Work In Progress
• Experts Argue Travel Management And Human Resources Need A Reunion


  1. Yikes! More people trust a stranger than their leader. I’d go find myself a new leader. thanks for the reminder of the importance of people Vic.

  2. All great points. One of the most interesting to me is that employees continue to be put in management roles as a reward for accomplishments as an individual contributor without training or consideration if management is the correct path. Not all ICs will be great managers and many fantastic managers didn’t set the world on fire as ICs. Career pathing is critical for the success if an individual and company.

  3. Vic, your piece reminds me of Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher, who famously said that the customer does not come first. Our people come first, and in turn our people will then take care of the customer. Countless SWA employees would then set out to delight customers each day, knowing they had the full trust of their CEO to do what was right, in the moment. Kelleher knew to trust the people on the front lines and to support them at all costs. That is a people development lesson many of us can keep top of mind each day.

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