David Hassell is the founder and CEO of 15Five, the leading Web-based employee feedback and alignment solution that is transforming the way employees and managers communicate. Named "The Most Connected Man You Don't Know in Silicon Valley" by Forbes Magazine, David has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Entrepreneur, Wired, Fast Company, and the Financial Post. Learn more at www.15five.com.

Seventy percent of American workers are either uninspired at work or actively disengaged, which cost businesses more than $450 million in 2013. Employees disengage because they feel unsupported, over-scrutinized, or that their very jobs are at risk. And when employees feel unsafe, they're working from their more primitive reptilian brain. This puts people in a high-stress state where they can't concentrate and are looking for distractions, such as email and Facebook.

On the other hand, when people feel supported, they have the space to be creative, iterate, and do their best work. Empowered employees are also free to focus on the areas where they can be most valuable, which leads to a more successful and sustainable organization.

It All Starts With Culture and Values

Today, company culture is viewed as the glue that keeps companies together. But 20 years ago, the term was laughable. It meant you were "soft" in a dog-eat-dog business world.

When I interviewed candidates at my first startup, I didn't consciously focus on culture fit, but I hired people who "felt right," and eventually created a team that was trustworthy, high-energy, and cooperative. My partner had different values and built his own team that was not as energetic or cooperative. Eventually, tension and conflict emerged between the teams. I wasn't sure what had occurred until I read an article that brought the problem to light: You can't have more than one culture within the same company. I shared the article with my co-founder, and we mutually agreed to part ways for the good of the company.

The most effective hiring practices and daily operations are tied directly to a company's values. When we hire, make decisions, or tackle challenges, we ask ourselves important questions. Will this new feature lead to customer success and delight? Does the candidate value trust and transparency? Ask yourself these questions to determine whether the decision will keep you on track to complete team and organizational goals.

Become More Sustainable

When your employees can't wait to arrive in the morning, that enthusiasm will show in their work, and your business will thrive. But this positive cycle all begins with your investment in them.

All 15Five employees receive $500 for their birthday to spend on any personal development course they choose. We believe that employees' personal goals are tied to how well they do at work. Our head writer spent the money on a creative writing class. He feels supported in his personal writing projects, which feeds his more effective and creative writing for us. We have created a loop in which he is simultaneously realizing his potential as an employee and as a person.

So why do we feel justified in spending that kind of money? We don't just do it for the "warm and fuzzy" feeling. We do it because it improves performance while creating the space for each employee to achieve greatness. Here are four ways your contributions to employee success can positively impact your bottom line and make your business more sustainable:

  1. Improve Morale: When people feel good about going to work because it's a place where they can grow and achieve, it elevates the energy of your entire organization. You can feel it at meetings in different offices. The silence is sometimes so intense that you can't wait to leave. Other times, the entire place is buzzing with productivity. Leadership's job is to combat poor morale and create the latter scenario every day.
  2. Increase Retention: Many startups offer company shares as a way to keep people invested. But people really only stay for one reason: They want to be there. When your employees are doing something they love, working with other creative people, and feeling supported to do their best work, retention automatically follows.
  3. Drive Loyalty: Very few people perform well if they feel they're in an unsafe or unsupportive environment. When employees feel unsafe, they revert to a more primitive and less productive mindset. When employees feel safe and supported, they're better able to access their frontal lobe and cognitive skills to become more adept problem solvers and team members. Additionally, when people feel supported personally and professionally, they're naturally more engaged and accountable.
  4. Boost Reputation: Being a "great place to work" is a big deal, and it receives consistent media coverage. As word travels that your company supports employee growth and fulfillment, you'll attract the most competitive candidates.

How you invest in your employees' development is up to you, but it's important that you have an investment strategy that keeps them engaged. Not only will your business not contribute to the $450 million that's lost to disengagement, but you will build a team that is sustainably more creative and productive.