The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Engaged Employees Only


Having a fully engaged workforce is every leaders dream. According to Forbes, only 13% of employees are actively engaged in their organizations. The statistics go on to show that organizations with highly engaged employees operate at 3 times the operating margin than those with lower levels of engagement. While there is a lot of talk about employee engagement – these statistics should put some emphasis around making it happen!

But how can you ensure that those on your team are in fact engaged at any point in time. Zappos and their parent company – Amazon – think they have the answer. They pay employees thousands of dollars to leave the team if they are not engaged. Each organization has taken a different approach to the offer, each has merit and may be applicable in your workplace.

In the model from Amazon, the focus is on the warehouse employees and occurs once each year. Amazon has had issues motivating the warehouse group to remain engaged. There is a realization that for many of their employees the warehouse job is just a stepping stone to something bigger. To combat this, they have developed training programs to allow employees to move on, but still feel good about Amazon. They offer employees the opportunity to leave with a significant sum of cash if an employee determines this isn’t the job for them. Amazon executives feel this allows employees a time to reflect on the job – and leave before they contaminate others with negative thoughts as discussed in this article on

Zappos puts the focus on new hires. They bring employees into the organization and begin with a four-week extensive orientation program. During the program, they ask employees to reflect on the position and the culture and determine if they made they right decision to join Zappos. If the employee does not feel the culture is right for them – they can leave with a large bonus – which has increased over the years from $100 to $4,000! In a conversation with CEO Tony Hsieh, Bloomberg shares how the program came to be, and why Zappos is so committed to it.

We all want employees that are committed to our organization, products, and clients. Having employees that have one eye on their next opportunity will translate far beyond the cost of turnover. The lack of customer service, quality, and innovation are drivers to your bottom line that will not occur by employees who are not connected to your organization.

The programs being offered by Amazon and Zappos may be extreme, but the lessons can be incorporated into all businesses. Some tips that you might institute in your organization easily include:

  • Conversation between HR and new hire 2-3 weeks into the role to see how things are “really” going.
  • Implement a part of the annual review where employees have an honest and open forum to discuss what might cause them to look for another job.
  • Succession planning that would allow you to understand which employees in the organization have other plans for their future. For instance, are they currently enrolled in a degree program for another field.

The common theme in all these suggestions is to simply take time to stop, look and listen on a regular basis. The signs of disengagement are usually there – we just have to ask and listen to the reply from our employees.

Photo by Ged Carroll used under the following license.

1 Comment
  1. Lori, you’ve hit it on the head. Studies have shown that the biggest driver of employee engagement is the “I care about you” message from leaders. Having the open and honest conversation as you’ve proposed is an easy and forthright way to do that.

    We often have a way of making simple things complicated, but driving engagement is truly simple. It’s about the need of human beings to feel appreciated and cared about.

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