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Employees are the lifeblood of any organization. If they are not supported and cared for, an organization will not be sustainable—financially, environmentally, or socially. That’s why few business concerns are more important than your employees’ health, safety, engagement—and motivation.


Companies owe it to their employees to treat them fairly and with respect. These are the people who are depended upon to keep business running smoothly and sustainably, and regardless of whether an employee is an executive or a blue-collar worker, everything he or she does matters.

If employees are subjected to verbal abuse or incessant micromanagement, or if they are disregarded, they will become resentful. At a minimum, frustrated, resentful employees are liable to do substandard work or quit at the first opportunity, and if they are treated poorly enough, they may even be tempted to sabotage or steal from the company. Workers give nearly half of their waking lives to their employer, and the loyalty that treating them with respect buys, for example paying them a decent wage, is beyond price.

An employee’s engagement—the willingness and ability to devote 100 percent to the job at all ti­­­­­­mes and feeling an emotional stake in the company—depends on a number of factors: a sense of job security, that management communicates and cares about opinions, and being treated fairly and paid fairly for the time and effort invested.

Employees who feel secure in their jobs, who feel respected and trusted, will go to surprising lengths to earn and keep their employers’ respect. In short, happy employees are more productive employees.

Employees who understand themselves to be valued members of a team are more confident and relaxed, and therefore more innovative and energetic. Such employees invariably provide better customer service, which results in happier customers, which leads to more business and higher profits, which drives a company’s financial sustainability over the long term.

Salesforce happens to be a particularly fine example of a company that walks the walk when it comes to building a sense of trust and respect with its employees. The company’s About Us content features entire pages devoted to the value of trust, the issue of sustainability and equality.

For my book “Global Sustainability,” I interviewed CEO Marc Benioff and asked why Salesforce thinks that building trust with its employees matters.

“This is our culture,” he told me. “That is, we are a company that’s committed to four things: One—trust, the trust with our customers, employees, and partners. Two—growth, because in the tech industry, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Three—innovation; because we’re a technology company, we’re constantly innovating and delivering next-generation capability. And four—equality; we believe in equality for all, and we’re willing to dedicate part of our time to our mission to help those who are less fortunate than we are.

Equality at Salesforce also extends to their workforce policies and wage scales. Benioff explained to me how vital creating a sense of fairness is to boosting employee morale: “We believe in equal rights for our employees,” he told me. ““We recently looked at every one of our employees’ salaries to close the gender pay gap. The Salesforce salary assessment concluded that we needed to adjust some salaries—for both men and women. So we closed the gap and made a $3 million investment in combatting inequality and living our values.” Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is.

We can all learn a valuable lesson from a sustainability leader like Benioff in that it is critical to consider the impact of policy decisions and company culture on all stakeholders, which includes the well-being and engagement of employees. They are a critical component of the company’s long-term success, and they are connected to the ecosystem in which everyone operates. If treated with respect, they will respond in kind, and only in this atmosphere can any business remain sustainable.

About the Author

Mark Lefko has coached and mentored more than 100 CEOs and company presidents, bringing with him 35 years of real-world C-level business experience. A thought leader in the fields of leadership and sustainability, Lefko serves on several advisory boards and is known for his high-energy, insightful speaking engagements. As the Founder and CEO of Lefko Group, one of the nation’s leading facilitation firms, he has led countless strategic planning retreats, corporate think tanks, roundtables and peer groups. “Global Sustainability,” Mark’s second book, aims to inspire executives to rally around the concept of doing well while doing good.  He lives in Los Angeles, California and publishes a website at www.marklefko.com.