Employees first, customers second. A radical idea? Maybe not.

Conventional wisdom suggests that prioritizing customer needs leads to business growth. While true, there is another underlying truth: when employees are priority No. 1, they will lead you on a path to growth. Engaged employees lead to engaged customers. And THIS leads to loyal customers who can’t stop talking about you.

You get a better customer experience by creating a better employee experience. Engaged employees show up every day excited, inspired and motivated to deliver excellent customer experiences. Loyal customers aren’t produced; they’re cultivated by engaged employees who nurture these relationships daily. It is only when they feel truly valued for who they are, not just what they produce, will employees translate that loyalty into creating raving fans.

Creating a better employee experience has to do with motivation. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink describes why the intrinsically motivated add more value. Pink says they are fueled by three internal factors: purpose, mastery, and autonomy. They value focus, excellence, and freedom to do things their way. They have better self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, and physical and mental health. In the long run, the intrinsically motivated outperform the extrinsically—those who rely on external forces outside themselves such as fame, money, grades, and praise to keep going. Engaged employees are internally motivated, aligning with your mission and pursuing mastery to get there.

So how do you build an engaged, intrinsically motivated workplace? Here are 3 steps that put you on the right path:

1. Empower your staff. Know their talents because talent drives behavior. Notice what they do well and when they are being successful. Encourage, arrange and position them to do more of what they do well. According to Gallup, people who know and use their strengths are 6 times more likely to be engaged at work and 7.8 times more productive. When you empower them to excel, they give all they’ve got.

2. Reward your staff. Care about your employee’s goals. Help them get what they need. Take them out for coffee, where they might feel more open to speak. Ask: What are your dreams and aspirations? What are your immediate and future goals? What do you need to succeed? What do you want to learn? Explore how they learn best and customize stretch projects, special assignments, coaching opportunities and training that support their goals. Promote and reward their growth into positions where both they and your company flourish.

3. Inspire your staff. Help employees catch your vision by showing them why their contributions matter. Model the behavior you want to see. And there is no better time than when than when things go wrong, and customers fear the worse. Mess ups are the best time to create memorial impressions –surprising and delighting customers in ways impossible to orchestrate when everything is going well. Responding, rather than reacting, reduces tension and emotional upset; conveys trust in your employee’s human connection with customers. Harvard Business School’s blog on designing a better customers experience recommends trusting the long-term employee-customer relationship over quick reactive fixes when things go awry: Rather than worrying about offering customers a discount on products or services or focusing on how fast employees can process transactions, companies could benefit in the long run from empowering their employees to meet customers emotional needs more often.

The unconventional wisdom of employees first, customers second yields long term sustainable business growth because engaged employees lead to engaged, raving customers. Empowering, growing and inspiring your staff sets you on a path to success and sets you apart from the competition.