If there’s one thing that all business leaders can agree on, it is the importance of profitability. Companies that are not profitable have a short life span. But here’s the disconnect: while most business leaders agree on the importance of profitability, very few understand the connection between employee engagement and financial performance.

Let me paint a picture for you of what I mean.

A CEO is reviewing the quarterly earnings report for his company, and it’s not good. What does he do next?
Chances are he’ll call a meeting with the executive team to discuss the numbers (that is, unless his board calls a meeting with him, first). They will scrutinize the numbers, discuss buying trends, and review a host of other sales-related activities. But there’s one thing I can almost guarantee they won’t talk about, and that is their people.
They won’t talk about Susie, the national accounts rep who is on the phone daily, interacting with customers. Susie has invested nearly two and half years of her life into the company, often working overtime to reach her sales goals. But today, she is spending her lunch break looking for a different job because she feels disconnected, undervalued, and unengaged.

Susie’s problem is not a career problem; it’s a relationship problem. She is among 70% of the American workforce that feels disengaged at work.

Employee engagement is a problem I am deeply familiar with in my role as an advisor to business leaders. And what I have found is companies that perform consistently well financially are companies where there is a high level of employee engagement.

They have successfully created what I call a People-First culture where relationship is valued over money, and people over profits. People-First companies prioritize the relational health and connection among their team members over everything else and are reaping the rewards of better sales, high retention, and more enjoyment in the daily tasks required to get things done.

Now, it’s easy to pay lip service to the idea of People-First without actual implementation. So how can you tell if your company truly values people over profits? Below are three key questions to gauge your commitment to a People-First culture.

  1. How often do you take team members to lunch without an agenda? People-First leaders create space to be available to their team. Set aside chunks of time every day, every week, and every month that are purely for connecting with your team members and hold those times as sacred as a quarterly earnings call.
  2. Can every team member talk about the mission and vision of your company in their own words? Shared goals unite disconnected groups of individuals. The military, athletes, and politicians understand this well. If you don’t have a clear mission and vision, create one. If you have one that’s not relevant, revamp it. Your team members want to be part of something greater than themselves.
  3. Are you spending most of your time creating the future, or putting out fires? This is a big one. I can’t tell you the number of leaders I know who spend their days managing problems when they should be imagining the future. Give your team members authority and autonomy to solve their own problems, so you can focus on what matters most.

Creating a People-First culture is time well spent. Start reaping the rewards of putting people first today by honestly answering these questions and creating a plan of action. I guarantee you won’t regret it.


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