How often have you heard a CEOS say  "our employees are our most important asset".

I must hear this almost every single day when I am consulting with businesses. 

In fact, if I had a cent for every CEO I've heard say this over the years, I could probably afford to give up work and sit at the beach all day.

But when you look at how leaders actually treat and interact with these "valuable" employees of theirs, you can see they just don't believe it.

Far too many CEOs are just paying lip service to employee engagement.  

Yes, it makes a nice sound bite, sure it's what their staff wants to hear, and it will motivate them for a little while. But what they do in practice is actually very different, because, for many CEOs, it's "profits first," followed by customers and lastly employees.

If you don't believe that, then just take a look at any employee engagement survey where engagement has been stuck at around 30 percent for the last decade and more.

This is short-sighted short-term thinking.
Here are seven fabulous benefits of putting your people first.

1. Increased staff retention

Highly engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave your company than disengaged employees, according to a Hay Group study. Turnover not only has a disruptive effect on your business and services but also adds an additional expense regarding recruiting, onboarding and training new employees. 
Altogether, these issues can cost your company anywhere from 16 percent up to 213 percent of salary depending upon the role.

2. Higher productivity

Happy people are productive people, and highly engaged people fall right into that happy category. When employees are engaged at work, they feel a connection with the company; they believe that the work they're doing is important, and that makes them work harder. According to Gallup, engaged employees outperform disengaged employees by 21 percent. In my experience, I would say that this is a conservative estimate, but even so, a 21 percent increase is a significant boost to productivity.

3. Bigger profits

Companies with engaged employees achieve much better profits: A study by Towers Perrin in 2008 showed that organizations with engaged employees experienced a 19 percent increase in operating income over a 12-month period, compared to a 33 percent decrease in companies with disengaged employees.

That's a 51 percent difference in profitability between companies with engaged staff compared to those with disengaged staff.

4. Better company reputation

Your staff are the best ambassadors for your company. And what they say about you has a direct impact on your reputation. Employees who are happy and speak well about your company increase its reputation and attractiveness to other potential employees, as well as possible customers. 

Whereas the opposite is also very true as disengaged employees will trash your reputation.

5. Increased customer satisfaction and retention

Richard Branson has said that "Clients do not come first; employees come first. If you take care of the employees, they will take care of your clients." A study by Temkin in 2016 showed that companies which excelled at customer service had 1.5 times as many engaged staff than companies with poor customer experience.

If you want happier and more satisfied customers, you need more satisfied and engaged teams.

6. Healthier staff who take fewer sick days

Highly engaged employees have fewer absence days -- an average 3.5 days -- compared to disengaged employees. Sick days disrupt your operations and can put an additional burden on engaged staff.

Sick days cost American businesses $228.5 million, while a more engaged staff means fewer sick days -- and lower costs to pay.

7. Lower stress

There are connections between happiness and stress relief. Not only are happy teams more productive, but they are also less stressed and stressful to other employees. And that's a scenario which helps create a much healthier working environment.

Taking good care of employees, and ensuring that they are highly engaged shouldn't just be an empty slogan for companies and their CEOs. It should be an active part of your strategy because as the above research illustrates, there are multiple benefits involved, which in turn help drive growth, profits and customer satisfaction -- the goals of every company.

Published on: Nov 5, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.