What Can We Learn from Amazon’s Investment in Its Frontline Workforce? | Future of Field Service
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What Can We Learn from Amazon’s Investment in Its Frontline Workforce?

By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

On Wednesday of last week, Amazon announced a new investment of nearly $1 billion over the next year in its frontline workforce. The company is increasing the average hourly rates of its fulfillment and transportation workers and has also introduced a new benefit that gives employees greater flexibility around when they collect their pay. The announcement also includes an expansion of career advancement and development opportunities for its frontline workforce. 

The press release states that, “Amazon employees around the world team up to meet the needs of customers every day. Employees are the cornerstone of the company, facilitating the journey of an Amazon package … To ensure customer orders are picked, packed, and shipped on time every single day, Amazon continues to invest in our employees, technology, supply chain planning, transportation, and delivery teams in an effort to get customers what they want, when they want it, wherever they are.”

You may read of Amazon’s investment and think – well, sure, but not every company has Amazon money. Here’s what I want to emphasize – it isn’t as much about the money as it is about the recognition that the frontline workers are powering Amazon’s customer satisfaction. That’s the part of the announcement that stands out to me far beyond the dollars and cents. 

Companies across industries and geographies are struggling with filling roles and finding talent. These challenges often take the conversation to how do we better attract, recruit, and hire – and those are all important things, but I want to urge you to think critically about what you are doing to invest in your current workforce. We’ve all heard the saying that it is far harder to find a new customer than it is to keep an existing one happy, and this is true for the workforce as well. We will exacerbate the talent problem by focusing so specifically on brining in the new that we overlook the need to nurture the existing.

Not Every Investment in Your Workforce Has to Be Dollars

The goal isn’t to replicate exactly what Amazon is doing, but to consider some of the points surfaced in the announcement and reflect upon whether you’re doing what you can to engage and retain your existing workforce while you seek that new talent. Here are a few points that come to mind:

  • Recognition costs nothing and goes far. Yes, Amazon is investing $1 billion – but as I said, while the number is significant, what stood out to me most when reading the news release was the respect and acknowledgement of the critical role the frontline workforce plays in the company’s success. Your employees want to feel that they matter, they want to hear their hard work acknowledged, and they want to be respected for the value they bring to the business. There are very simple (and free) ways to recognize your frontline workers for their contributions that will make a real difference.
  • Pay must be fair. With financial pressures top of mind, it can be difficult to prioritize investing in your resources. What you want to be careful of is making sure you are being fair to your existing workforce when you bring new talent on board. I’ve had people ask how to handle situations where new workers are demanding far more than existing workers are paid – and while there’s no easy answer, I think the right thing to do is to make sure your workers are all fairly paid. 
  • Flexibility is hugely desired today. In Amazon’s example they are addressing flexibility by giving employees greater control over when they get paid. But the takeaway here, to me, is that flexibility in general is very important to today’s workers. In some frontline roles you are constricted in what ways you can offer flexibility, but you should be getting creative in how to do so.
  • Complacency is a thing of the past. Amazon’s commitment to upskilling its workers and offering ample career advancement and development opportunities is one to model. Many companies haven’t moved beyond the memories of being able to hire a frontline worker who was happy to show up and do the same job, every day, for 20 or 30 years. Those days have past and to not only attract new talent, but to retain the knowledgeable workers you already have, you must think of how to offer development and growth opportunities. 
  • Purpose matters to people. In the press release it says, “Amazon workers around the world ‘team up’ to meet the needs of customers.” Now I recognize these are only words, but they are words that can get you thinking in the right direction – which is that a sense of purpose, and a sense of belonging, matter. Does your company have a “team” culture? Is there a camaraderie of working toward a common goal and celebrating wins together?

I’d love to hear how your company is investing in its workforce. If you have thoughts or a story to share, email me!