Any new benefit introduced at Amazon has to align to its 16 leadership principles, which the organization lives and breathes every day.
These include: learn and be curious, think big, inventing and simplifying, customer obsession and bias for action. “When we roll out a benefit, it has to fit into our leadership principles,” said Adam Watson-Smyth, benefits program manager for Canada at Amazon, during Benefits Canada‘s 2023 DC Plan Summit. “If, for whatever reason, it isn’t checking the boxes, we won’t roll it out. It has to be right for our organization.”
Amazon has about 55,000 employees in Canada. It’s a relatively young workforce with an average age of 37, which dictates a lot of the benefits it looks to implement, he said, noting all Canadian staff — except for seasonal workers — have access to the group registered retirement savings plan.
Amazon defines financial well-being as the extent to which people can comfortably meet their financial commitments. “It’s not about income, but it’s about what you’re doing and having control over your finances,” said Watson-Smyth. “Obviously, these are tough times. . . . How can we work with what we have and what employees have and help them with their actual finances? And that’s where our initiatives come into place.”
Among these initiatives, Amazon offers access to health and wealth consultants to all employees. After an initial consultation, staff book a follow-up call for a year later so they can review their investments in the savings plan. The organization also offers access to debt management advisors through the Credit Counselling Society of Canada.
“We’re really big on trying to help people manage their finances,” said Watson-Smyth. “So whether it’s creating a budget [or] managing debt . . . [or] building credit. . . . And the list goes on.”
Amazon also has benefits champions, who are particularly beneficial to the 45,000 Canadian employees who work in operations. They act at the site-level, including the corporate offices, as points of contact for the benefits program. “We had to turn people away from wanting to take this on. . . . They wanted to learn how their benefits worked for themselves, but in doing so they end up becoming a benefits champion for us.”
In addition, Amazon has benefits booths at all of its sites, featuring a QR code that links employees directly to information on all of the benefits. “This has been game changing for us,” he said. “Typically, things are piloted in the U.S. and then they start to roll out to other countries. We did the reverse on [the benefits booths]. Now the program is being rolled out and piloted in the U.S. So we’re pretty proud of this one.”
The organization also offers a financial wellness concierge service. Currently in the pilot stage, the service offers real-time, expert help for urgent financial situations. “This is a concierge service that will help get [employees] back on their feet,” said Watson-Smyth, noting an example of an urgent situation is a car breaking down or someone being evicted. “It’s not only monetary support, but it’s emotional support, too. Then they’re moved along into the program and they have access to certified financial planners, credit counsellors if they need help rebuilding their credit and the whole rest of it.”
Finally, Amazon has an employee savings account, which deducts money from workers’ paycheques just like the group RRSP contributions.
“It could be for a rainy day. It could be for a planned trip. . . . This is just to help create positive behaviour . . . so if we can get to them and get to their money beforehand and help them initiate the savings, away we go.”
Read more coverage of the 2023 DC Plan Summit.