Employees are not just a company’s backbone, they are its life force. Your team should always be a top priority—amid hiring decisions, firing decisions, or any major decisions that could leave a lasting impact on your organization. If they are not, you will be the one to suffer.

Unhappy employees are quick to vote with their feet. Dash Design’s founder David Ashen learned this lesson last year after losing almost a quarter of his company’s workforce after bringing on a new business partner. What seemed like a harmless decision at the time had a significant impact on the company’s culture, and employees were not shy in making their disputes known. One can chalk this up to a rarity, but it is actually more common than you might think. 

As of last year, job openings were at a record high as an increasing number of employees left their current positions in pursuit of ‘greener pastures’. Today, if an employee is dissatisfied at work for whatever reason, they are not going to wait around and hope things improve. Would you? But as talent pools begin to narrow, leaders are finally starting to concern themselves with employee retention—a smart judgement seeing as how high employee churn rates can cost businesses up to $11 billion a year.

The solution? Put employees first.

Money is not everything

Salary is often a pain point for most employees, which leads many to believe that it is the number one reason why someone would choose to leave their job. However, money is actually quite low on the list. Above money discrepancies are: employee burnout (which accounts for 20 to 50 percent of exits), heavy workloads, lack of job-specific training, and poor performance review processes. 

Never put a monetary value on employee satisfaction; financial incentives will usually not be enough to keep team members happy. Instead, focus on engagement. When employees are more engaged at work (notice I said ‘engaged,’ not ‘overworked’), they will be more fulfilled; when employees are more fulfilled, they will be more productive. It is a continuous (positive) cycle. And companies that focus on employee engagement are not only more likely to retain top talent, they also attract better talent. 

Think bigger than your company

Work should never be your life, even if you are the founder of a company. Yes, you will dedicate a lot of your personal life to your work and yes, your work-life balance may be a little skewed, but no one should only eat, sleep, and breathe work. Nor should you expect that of your employees. Give employees a reason to be invested in your company by thinking beyond the workplace.

Team members who work for philanthropic companies are 13 times more likely to look forward to work every morning. So, focus on a larger mission and purpose that is bigger than your bottom line. Donate funds to a local charity, or give employees time off to volunteer for a cause they are passionate about. Employees do not want to feel like they are a cog in a machine—they want to feel like they are making a difference. 

You cannot ignore a toxic culture

If you think a positive culture cannot be measured, you are wrong. You will notice when your employees start showing up to work just to earn their paychecks, putting in the minimal effort required to not raise any red flags (which should be a red flag for you). You will notice more cliques and less conversations in the breakroom as bullies thrive in your toxic environment. You will notice your employees smile less when walking into the office every morning. You will also notice innovation hitting rock bottom.

In a toxic culture, no one cares about anything or anything but themselves. If you have noticed these patterns, or cannot undeniably say these do not happen at your company, it is time to take a step back and revisit your culture and your priorities.

Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Just as it is in the corporate world, your company’s success is dependent upon your employees all working together, which is only possible in a workplace that values its team members.