It's estimated that by 2021, the leading cause of work absenteeism and presenteeism (being physically present but not fully functioning) will be occupational stress. Spiking levels of stress isn't just a symptom of shaky work-life balance; it's also a sign that employees are feeling less effective and engaged on the job. 

To find the solution, employers should examine their development opportunities (or lack thereof). If you want to become a sought-after employer, you must concentrate on what your employees want and what they need, providing them with both.

Today's employees want a purpose, not just a paycheck. They need coaches and mentors, not just bosses. Your team wants to develop, both professionally and personally, and you can help them do so.

These four key areas of development have proven to enhance employee engagement, balance the work-life flow, and make employees feel and function better.

1. Improve health and wellness.

Providing opportunities for employees to set and reach health and wellness goals at work can greatly improve your workplace culture and prevent burnout, as well as add to your ROI (on average, for every $1 a company spends on health and wellness, they reap a $3-$6 profit increase).

Even practical approaches, such as offering fitness classes at the office and encouraging workplace friendships, reinforce the idea that the company cares about its employees.

The best companies take it a step further.

BASF, a leading chemical company, created its Healthy YOU program, which focuses not just on employees' physical health, but their overall wellness. Through the company's innovative programing, employees find support and rewards for doing things like:

  • Quitting smoking

  • Losing weight

  • Reducing stress

  • Improving mood

2. Recognize exceptional behavior and performance.

When employees do a stellar job, tell them. A recent Gallup poll showed that recognition from managers and coworkers influence motivation, job satisfaction and engagement more than most other factors. Consider implementing a formal program that allows coworkers to recognize each other for doing great work.

Voted one of Modern Healthcare's Best Places to Work, Frontera, which provides in-office medical diagnostic services, is a star when it comes to employee recognition. By focusing on what motivates specific employees, the company created recognition incentives that motivate everybody, including days off, financial rewards, and company shout-outs. For its best employees, Frontera offers one annual award -- a three-night stay for the employee and their guest at one of the co-founder's favorite resorts.

3. Create financial well-being.

While many employees don't expect to get rich, everyone wants to retire at some point. And with seven out of 10 Americans under financial stress, it impacts the workplace, including productivity, engagement, absence rates, and retention -- not to mention physical and mental health. Yet if a company can improve its employees' financial wellbeing, both benefit.

At Charles Schwab, the financial firm doesn't just concern itself with its customers' finances. Part of the company's benefit package includes 401(k) matching and boosting through recognition milestones. What's more, they offer complimentary financial consultation, giving each employee the opportunity to ensure they're on the right track financially, no matter what department they work in.

4. Continue learning and development.

Employees don't want to just learn the basics of a job and continue at that level for the rest of their career. No, they want to learn and develop, both as an employee and as an individual. And when your company learns how to incorporate this into its performance development, both the company and the employee profit from the experience.

Hyatt offers a prime example of how innovation and training go hand in hand. Known for recognizing talent in their employees and promoting internally, the multinational hotel chain offers employees lengthy trainings and encourages them to find solutions to problems through its "Change the Conversation" program. This leads to independence and personal development among the staff, as well as innovative ideas that improve performance. 

CarMax, a leader in used car sales, even offers employees specific trainings on how to move up in the company and ensure regular raises, making it one of Training magazine's top training companies year after year.