Why is looking after your employees so important?

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business,” says Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group. Wise words, wouldn’t you say?

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This principle - taking care of your people - is at the heart of creating a great place to work, where people are appreciated, engaged, productive and thriving. Where they actually want to work. That's why we're seeing leading employers in the US and abroad increasingly investing in their workforce's wellbeing.

Why does this matter? Because over 70% of US employees are disengaged, according to Gallup, costing businesses up to $550 billion in lost productivity annually. Globally, those numbers climb even higher. That may seem a bit doom and gloom, but it’s actually not, which is exactly why it’s such an exciting time for the employee engagement and wellbeing industry.

Gone are the days when companies viewed employee engagement and wellbeing programs as ‘nice to do,’ yielding ‘soft’ benefits. Companies with high engagement scores perform better than their counterparts in key operational areas like productivity, absenteeism, turnover, safety and quality incidents, shrinkage, customer metrics, and profitability, Gallup reports.

CEOs care about and are measured against these numbers, so it's no wonder they're launching initiatives aimed to boost employee engagement. In fact, "increasing employee engagement" is the number one strategic priority for CEOs, according to the Conference Board. But there's room for improvement in how companies go about it.

Research on employee engagement and productivity continues to show the basic health of employees indicates how engaged they’ll be on the job. Yet today, taking care of ourselves isn’t always top priority.

Think about it: when asked to do more with less, be accessible 24/7, and respond to emails the moment they hit our inboxes, we sacrifice our personal priorities to do so. We’ll put healthy habits – exercising, eating healthily, getting enough sleep – on the back burner because we’re squeezed for time, overwhelmed, and stressed out. The result? Disconnected workforces that feel unappreciated, and can’t engage in the first place.

To drive engagement, we've got to put employees in the driver's seats of their own lives. Progressive employers know this. And it’s moving to see them take an innovative, holistic view of their workforce, ditching ‘check-the-box’ programs, and realising that taking care of employees goes beyond saving on healthcare costs.

Healthy, engaged employees are your top competitive advantage. No matter how good your business model is or products are, you still need a stellar team to design, build, improve, sell and service them.

As a Virgin Group company, it’s in our DNA to shake things up, right? So it’s exciting that Virgin Pulse is at the forefront of the fundamental shift that’s happening in the employee/employer relationship, and to work with forward-thinking business leaders who’ve ditched the ‘set it and forget it’ mentality in favour of doing their best to set people up for success. A lot of exciting, innovative things are happening in our industry, but here’s a look at some of the things we’re especially keen to do in 2015 and beyond.

First, we’re leading the charge to help employers take a more employee-centric view of their workforce. We’re helping companies show their employees they care about and appreciate them.

How? By supporting their people across all aspects of life to help them be their best selves. Once employees feel great and have the support they need, they're better able to engage, be more productive, and thrive – on and off the job. By taking care of their people, companies create a workforce with the physical energy, mental focus, and emotional drive necessary to power their businesses and impact those critical metrics.

Second, we’re serving as an accelerator for the many great investments companies make in people. For many of our clients, we’re the hub bringing disparate HR initiatives from multiple vendors together in one place. 

This makes it easier for their employees to discover all the programs available, learn about what’s relevant and meaningful for them, and choose what they want to do. In simplifying and improving this experience by making everything work together, we’re helping clients drive participation and engagement in the myriad of investments they’ve made, helping them get more value from their offerings. 

In both efforts, we use a powerful force the Virgin Group is known for: great marketing, experiences, and service. In 2015, we’re unveiling some impressive new products that’ll help support people even more holistically. Stay tuned and learn more on the Virgin Pulse website.

How are you seeing companies take care of their people? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet @virginpulse

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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