Finding Purpose At Work And The Growing Need For Corporate Values

Amazon AWS


Value alignment in the workplace is taking precedence over productivity for the first time in modern history, and it’s well overdue. Research has shown employees are more engaged when they have meaning in their work and witness direct outcomes of their efforts.

A recent Gallup poll found that highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability, underscoring that employee engagement is measured by concerted action, not intangible thoughts or emotions. One company that demonstrates a deep understanding of this is Amazon Web Services (AWS), the leading cloud services provider, which has wrapped doing social good into its DNA.

At Amazon and AWS, the team is driven by Leadership Principles that serve as atlases in an ever-evolving industry, and one that’s especially important to their employees is this one: “Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility.” This tenet further reaffirms the company’s commitment to doing more for communities worldwide.

The AWS ID&E Innovation Fund is a micr o-grant program that offers critical funding to employees aiming to make a positive impact on racial and ethnic groups, people with physical and cognitive disabilities, the LGBTQIA+ community, veterans, and women.

“I love the Innovation Fund because it allows our employees to jump in and take action with their communities. Also, it allows us to reach places where my core team wouldn’t be able to reach, and we do it through our employees globally,” said LaDavia Drane, global head of inclusion, diversity, and equity at AWS. “We started with a small fund in 2021, and last year, we provided a total of $750,000 for employees to support nonprofits that transform underrepresented groups. We’ve been getting very positive feedback from our employees and communities, and we’re excited to continue driving this program this year.”

Another demonstration of AWS’s commitment to meeting employees where their values lie is its Inclusion Ambassadors Program in which employees serve as stewards of inclusion, diversity, and equity and bring them to the forefront at work. For instance, Inclusion Ambassadors drive communications for important diversity events like inclusion forums, accessibility labs, and town hall conversations happening within AWS.

“It’s one of our oldest programs and one I’m really proud of. What’s unique about it is that employees can take advantage of the resources and apply it to their orgs as they see fit because each business unit has specific needs. It also helps people feel included. It’s comprised of thousands of employees, and they are empowered to activate what inclusion looks like for them,” Drane told ESSENCE.

AWS also has a global cultural change initiative called Inclusion Pledge that inspires AWS employees to engage in allyship training, interrupt microaggressions or bias when they hear or see them, and develop a safe space for difficult conversations.

As for senior leaders, they can enroll in the 360 Inclusive Leadership Compass, an assessment to help them understand their strengths, potential blind spots, and actions they can take to be more inclusive of those around them. Once they have the results, then they are paired with a coach or a partner that consults them on how they can further embed inclusion in their business units.

“At AWS, our strategy is to lead with inclusion. If a culture is truly inclusive, then you can attract and retain people from different backgrounds, experiences, and identities. You don’t want people coming and leaving because they don’t feel a sense of inclusion and belonging at the organization,” Drane said. “The other thing is when you can increase inclusion, you make it possible for everyone to have equitable outcomes. People will be more willing to speak up and say if something isn’t equitable and find ways to change it.”

Drane acknowledged that they are always building and iterating because there’s much more work to do in this space. For the year ahead, they will focus on scaling the programs so they can reach as many employees and underrepresented individuals globally as possible.

Click here for more information about AWS’s Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity program.

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