I believe in employee empowerment and left my corporate job to devote my life and business to it. Defined, employee engagement is the emotional commitment to the organization and its goals, resulting in discretionary effort – those employees who go above and beyond what’s asked. There’s not many of them. Gallup says only 30% of employees in most organizations are engaged, costing companies billions of dollars. That stat has barely budged in 10 years.
Increase employee engagement, and you will drive business results. This concept is at the heart of every internal communications strategy. For most internal communicators, it’s why we jump out of bed in the morning. We believe employee engagement can tap into that need all of us have to enthusiastically be part of something bigger than ourselves.
So, when I read the New York Times 11,000-word exposé on Amazon (“Where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.”), I thought, sadly, these employees, too, are engaged. And suddenly my concept of enthusiastic employees delivering exceptional business results seemed Pollyannaish. Amazon delivers over the top financially, but often at the cost of employees’ personal health and families. According to the article, these employees are taught to confront, sacrifice and push – no matter the price to their health or families.
And then I read the detailed response from Amazon employee Nick Ciubotariu on LinkedIn, and I was blown away. First, he took his weekend to write a point-by-point counter response to the Times article; and second, he felt empowered to write this without any approval from PR. His blog post currently has nearly two million views. Talk about employee engagement.
Who’s right? The Times authors or Nick?
The Times interviewed more than 100 employees over six months. These weren’t all anonymous sources, but often former employees willing to share their photo and name. That takes guts. As for Nick, I’m delighted he hasn’t been forced into making any of these personal sacrifices. I also would put good money down that he has a great, supportive boss.
My guess is they’re both right – at different times and under (dramatically) different managers.
Author James Poulos argues that we should “let Amazon be Amazon,” and that some people like working in this “scary” environment. I don’t buy it. I’m a self-proclaimed “Type A” who loves a career-enhanced adrenaline rush, but work should never cause emotional, mental or physical harm.
I understand business is business. Layoffs sometimes need to happen for long-term results. It’s not always good news. But let’s never forget that employees are essential to a company’s existence. They are not children; they are not your best “assets;” they are not “human capital.” They are human beings. Engage them – respectfully, honestly, professionally — and create an environment of enduring, mutual trust.
How much is that worth to you and your company?