Why we have chosen to value one set of workers over another has always been a mystery to me. Every job in a company provides value and contributes to the success of the company.
I was at a conference years ago and one of the division presidents at Toyota said that in his opinion the most important person working at the manufacturing plant certainly wasn’t him; it was the person installing brakes on the cars.
Some companies embrace this philosophy of worker equality and have tossed out the classic distinction between hourly and salary. And that applies to how benefits are awarded.
Recently, online retail giant Amazon released details about its parental policies which apply to all of its 11,000 U.S. workers, 72% of which are hourly. John Olsen, Amazon’s vice president of human resources, John Olsen, explained his company’s policy in a recent Business Insider article: “My benefits package is the same as a benefits package at a fulfillment center. I think we’ve got an egalitarian process.”
In 2015 the company overhauled its parental benefits package, extending it to all workers; that package now includes up to 20 weeks of paid leave. New programs, called Leave Share or Ramp Back, let employees share their Amazon paid leave with their spouse or domestic partner if their spouse’s employer doesn’t offer paid leave. Ramp Back gives new moms additional control over the pace at which they return to work.
The company’s healthcare plan, disability insurance, retirement savings plans and company stock are offered to all employees equally.
And it’s not only large companies that are extending benefits to all workers. Start-up company Boxed is doing the same. The company, which offers low-cost online bulk purchases with two-day delivery, employs both engineers and warehouse workers. CEO Chien Huang says he wants all of them to have the same perks, like unlimited parental leave and free weddings and tuition, reports Bloomberg. Huang says he doesn’t think the “people who move atoms” should be treated any worse than those who “move bits and bytes.”
What I always find ironic is that those who are at the top of the pay scale are the ones with the generous benefits, when those at the bottom (warehouse workers in the United States take home approximately $12.58 per hour on average) often receive no benefits and they are the ones that often have to go without, or settle for the least expensive (and often least effective) choices.
Aside from the fact that treating everyone equally is the right thing to do, there are business benefits as well.
“All other things being equal, companies that provide family-friendly benefits to their hourly workforce are more likely to have higher employee retention rates, lower turnover and a stronger pool of talent that enables them to promote from within,” says Gaye van den Hombergh, president of Winning Workplaces, a not-for-profit that works with small and mid-size organizations to create great workplaces.
And creating great workplaces is something that Amazon and others are highly focused on for a variety of reasons. One example of a program that enhances its workforce is Amazon’s Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a future career at the company. The company has built dedicated Career Choice classrooms at more than 25 fulfillment centers, making it more convenient for employees to use this important benefit.
With the movement by companies of recognizing the true value of all employees, regardless of where the work is located, and providing equal benefits, we will create a workforce that is more engaged, productive and dedicated.