'Value employees more than customers'

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The Independent Online

Businesses should put the welfare of their employees first - even ahead of their customers - according to a survey of European executives published today.

The research, carried out for the BusinessWeek European Forum in which The Independent is a strategic partner, cited people development strategies as the most important factor contributing to business success.

Executives from Europe's top 50 businesses said having capable, innovative employees with specialist knowledge is more valuable than knowledge of customers' needs.

Andrew Minton, co-founder of CriticalEYE, a strategic partner of the forum, said: "This turns on its head the old maxim - put the customer first. Businesses can only keep the customer happy if their people are nurtured and respected. After all, it is the employees of a business that are responsible for customer relationships and represent its brand values."

The executives who took part in the survey said that encouraging entrepreneurship among employees was a priority.

The importance of talent management has risen considerably in the past few years on executives' list of priorities.