If you don’t like it, leave! – Amazon’s strategy to improve employee engagement May 28 2014
One of the most popular buzz terms in human resources over the past decade has been “employee engagement.” Countless studies have presented the positive co-relation between employee satisfaction and organizational performance. Intuitively, this makes sense. Employees that are engaged in their work are likely more motivated and more committed to their employer, and therefore more likely to be focused on driving organizational performance. Disengaged employees are the opposite – they drag down those around them, and all the metrics associated with high performing organizations get dragged down as well (customer service, sales, quality, attendance, productivity, retention, etc.).
Stories of companies taking unique steps to encourage buy-in of their employees are prevalent. From Google, who is renowned for having one of the most employee-friendly work environments and takes great pride in listening and responding to employee suggestions, to Zappos (an online shoe and clothing retailer), who has spent a reported $350 million to develop a community for its employees to work, live and socialize in.
Even small businesses (those that aren’t investing $350 million in building entire communities for their employees) have jumped on the trend, by working hard to ensure that they have created a culture where employees are empowered and challenged by their work, where employees are able to readily connect their individual contributions to the success of the organization, and where employees feel supported by management.
Regardless of the approach that one takes to achieve a more engaged workforce, effecting a change in culture takes significant time and energy. Much of the effort is often spent attempting to convert employees that are actively disengaged in their work, to those that are engaged and driven to help the company, and themselves, succeed. Often, a significant portion of actively disengaged employees, despite the best efforts of their employers, simply cannot be converted.
It was likely this type of thought that led Amazon to their most recent program aimed to increase employee engagement, or as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos terms it, “employee empowerment.” Last month, in an annual letter to Amazon’s shareholders, Bezos writes:
"Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company."
This concept, which Bezos claims to have borrowed from Zappos, is interesting in that it recognizes that there is likely a greater return on investment by incenting unhappy employees to leave, than there is in attempting to turn around people that simply do not want to be there and are not committed to the company.
While such a strategy may not work in isolation, any creating an environment where a greater proportion of employees are more committed to the company, is likely to have an overall positive impact.
About the Author:
Ehren Baldauf, CHRP, is the Vice President of Humaniqa.com, a national comprehensive web-based business solution that supports small and medium businesses in managing their human resources. Ehren is a Senior Human Resources Consultant with over nine years of HR experience. Ehren is experienced in assisting clients in both the private and public sectors manage their human resources function and aligning it with their organizations’ strategic objectives. Whether it’s providing expert advice on matters such as attendance or performance management, developing compensation strategies, or working with employers on labour relations matters such as collective bargaining, Ehren’s expertise and guidance has allowed countless business owners and managers to focus more of their energy on their business, while knowing that they are well supported when HR challenges are encountered.