Empowering Employees by Investing in Human Capital

05/08/2015 09:11 am ET | Updated May 08, 2016

Top talent -- at all levels -- remains the scarcest resource in corporate America. Over the next 10 years, we will see leaders invest far more thought and effort into developing their human capital. Companies will go beyond the paycheck to consider how they can better impact employees' quality of life which will at the same time deliver stronger long-term business results.

According to the U.S. Census, income inequality has increased steadily in the U.S. for nearly 50 years, creating uncertainty and stress for lower-income families. This instability is a likely explanation for the low engagement levels at work. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 68.5 percent of U.S. employees were not engaged or were "actively disengaged." At the same time U.S. companies hold a combined $4 trillion in cash domestically and oveseas. Corporate leaders have said for some time that employees are one of our most important resources. It's time to invest in them accordingly.

Many companies have groups of employees in entry level positions who are the main providers for their family. These individuals, while appreciative of their job, struggle with financial and health issues. It is no wonder that they find it challenging to be fully engaged at work. To address this at Aetna, earlier this year we raised our minimum base wage to $16 per hour and announced improved benefits for our employees with lower household incomes. In addition, for several years we have offered health, wellness and stress management programs which have produced impressive results. Our mindfulness-based wellness programs have helped participating employees reduce their stress levels by 28 percent and gain 62 minutes of productivity per week.

Building an engaged workforce requires adopting a broader perspective on what it means to provide security for employees. It means reducing stress levels, paying a fair wage and helping improve health. Over the next 10 years, corporate America will be increasingly willing to make investments like these. By doing so, our employees will be empowered to take better care of our customers, as well as the communities in which we live, work and play.

This post is part of a series commemorating The Huffington Post's 10 Year Anniversary through expert opinions looking forward to the next decade in their respective fields. To see all of the posts in the series, read here.