Faced with a growing global backlash, Volkswagen's new chief executive Matthias Muller will need all the friends he can find. He should start by cultivating the people who work for him.
Consumers are individualists, enabled by technology and empowered by social media. They expect a lot more for their cash and are quick to shift their loyalties.
As companies come to terms with this post capitalist, digital generation, they depend on accurate, consistent, and increasingly predictive customer insight to help guide their thinking.
But customers and employees are two sides of the same coin. How can a chief executive reach out to customers if staff, particularly the customer-facing ones, are facing the other way?
Employees expect their views to be taken just as seriously as the customers’, and they are every bit as willing to engage. Furthermore, just like consumers, employees no longer react, or think according to their status, class, nationality or geography.
They too are individualists, who expect much from their employers and can be just as quick as the customer to jump ship. A chief executive under pressure needs real time analysis to help rebuild internal motivation as much as his external relations.
If appointed, Muller might ask his digital, human resources and internal communication teams what they are doing to engage and inform associates. How quickly, and on what metrics, are they analysing their success? Can they spot roadblocks, differing attitudes across disciplines and terrains, or tell the difference between mistrust and misinformation?
Companies take smart citizens, socially connected customers and employees, for granted at their peril.
In the Herculean task that the company's new boss faces in rebuilding his customers’ trust in Volkswagen, he should turn first and foremost to his 600,000 staff.