Get Your Association to Think Like an Employer: Lessons from the Amazon.com Story

There was a front page article in the New York Times recently about the culture at Amazon.com

I don’t know how much of it is true. The Times makes a compelling case. Jeff Bezos makes a compelling rebuttal

This much I do know, for a customer, Amazon is an extraordinary company. Last week I ran out of razor blades. I didn’t have time to get to CVS—Amazon had them delivered same day by 5PM. That’s faster than I could get to the CVS a few blocks away. 

But this isn’t about how Amazon treats their customers. It’s about how they treat their employees.  

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And here’s what I know about that. Nothing. Just what I read in the Times. 

But here’s something I do know about. How Virtual wants to treat its employees.

And this I know for sure. We want to be a great place to work. The Boston Globe honored us as such a few year’s back, and it’s a standards we aspire to.  

That’s why we do a few things: 

  1. We ask. We do two employee surveys per year. Our management team pours over results.If there are opportunities to change things, do.
  2. We care.  Life happens. A few years back, I had cancer and had to be out for a few months. People stepped in and covered. A workplace of nearly 100 people is filled with life events, some happy, some sad. But as an employer, the best thing you can do is care about what’s happening with your employees and give them the space and help they need when they need it. That’s why we announced our #LeadOnLeave policy last month of expanded paid maternity leave.
  3. We reward.  In the past few years we’ve given over $1M in bonuses to our employees, but also little “life awards” that often mean a lot more. We have some Springsteen nuts among our staff (I’m one of them.)  A few years back I got two members of our finance team front row seats to see Bruce.   Whether it’s getting employees on the field at Fenway or helping with a charity bike race that they’re in, we believe in rewarding performance any way we can.
  4. We’re flexible. We ask a lot of our employees. That’s why we want to make sure they can take the time off they need. That’s why our vacation policy is simple. Take the time off you need.   

We’re not Amazon. Heck, I can’t even get my own razor blades in 6 hours. But I think we do pretty well.  And if you want to join our team, email us at careers@virtualmgmt.com.

So how does any of this matter for associations and standards groups? There’s a common thread here.  It’s all about relationships. As a company, we work on our relationship with employees. People come from different backgrounds often with different agendas, but these principles help keep us aligned. The same is true for associations. Companies come from different backgrounds with different incentives. The trick is building the relationships to keep those divergent viewpoints aligned. And many of the same methods apply. Asking members for input. Genuinely caring about a member’s view. Rewarding participation. And being flexible to maximize engagement.

Because after all, standards group board members are people, too.

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Andy Freed
President & CEO

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