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Old 07-15-2019, 09:22 AM
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Best way to incentivize performance in warehouse/distribution jobs?


I've been reading and watching reports on conditions at places like Amazon warehouses. In my understanding, workers are motivated/incentivized to meet performance wickets, like delivering/processing X packages in Y time, mostly through negative means -- if they don't meet their wickets, then they might receive negative reports or even be fired. And this means that bathroom breaks can increase the chances of failure to meet these criteria. In my understanding, there are positive incentives, but these are pretty weak, like a fast food gift card.

Is this really the best way to motivate and incentivize performance? In my work experience, workers do much better, especially when it's a team effort, when the incentive is positive -- positive reinforcement and financial incentives. Would this work for these big warehouses? Something like an extra 50 cents per hour if wicket X is met, or $1 for a higher wicket, etc.? For anyone who's worked in this type of job, what incentive would make for the best performance?
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Old 07-15-2019, 09:40 AM
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Negative reinforcement is also useful, quite clearly, but in my experience it's useful only for truly unacceptable things -- negligence, failure to meet the very basics of the job, toxic behavior, etc. Not rushing around and doing the work but missing a wicket because one had to go to the bathroom and it took 10 minutes instead of 3.
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Old 07-15-2019, 09:47 AM
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Back in high school, I had a summer job in a coat factory. Imagine summer in a non-climate controlled warehouse, lugging arm fulls of heavy wool coats up and down portable metal steps to hang coats on multi-tier storage racks.

What motivated me were breaks to go sit outside in the sun because it was actually cooler than inside. It was also quite excellent motivation to get into college and not have to spend the rest of my life in a coat factory or something equally soul crushing.

So to answer the OP :In my case, positive re-enforcement would not help because the work conditions were so horrendous that the last thing you wanted to do was to work harder and longer (without breaks). Negative re-enforcement would be even less effective. Of course, this was a summer job for me so I wasn't exactly vested. That said, the full time workers were complete slackers and/or completely worn down by the drudgery of their work. They would squabble about who got to drive the forklift next to load/unload the incoming trucks.

I watched a recent Vice episode on Amazon warehouse fulfillment center workers and it was clear that the humans were working for the robots. Completely dehumanizing environment in which even the human jobs were in the process of being replaced by better technology/robotics.
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Old 07-15-2019, 10:53 AM
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Set team goals.
Set individual goals.
Reward with incentive pay bonuses, monthly or quarterly.

Poor performance results in the loss of your job.
With unemployment rates at historical lows, there are plenty of people that would love to have your job.
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Old 07-15-2019, 11:37 AM
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I've been reading and watching reports on conditions at places like Amazon warehouses.
Did someone call?

1) Listen. I can live with the answer being no sometimes but at least actually hear what I have to say.

2) Pick one standard of work. When one manager rewards me (with a small bag of chips) and the next day a different manager threatens and punishes me for the same damn thing, I find it ----------- not useful.

3) Quit trying to turn us against each other. Our bosses actually announced for a week that they would financially reward any of us who turned in another coworker for "not working as hard as he or she could". Huh? OK - someone clips some product, yeah I'm going to let you know. Someone threatens someone else I am calling security. But you want me to write up someone just because I THINK they could have moved faster? Whaddafuk? PS -- it didn't work. Our production fell off for the next month.

4) the easiest one; quit the lies and games. Sometimes we have more people than we do work and the manager needs to get people off the clock; what we call voluntary time off. We are promised 18 hours pay if we are scheduled for 5 shifts but if you volunteer to leave early that promise is off the table. Its part time work and most of us don't have a burning need to be there. Some do; those between jobs. But for most of us its a few extra bucks. If you flat-out explained it folks would usually be happy to bail. But no ------- we have to make it a game.
"You VTO now or I'm keeping you here seven hours". Dude, after 5 hours legally forcing us to remain would qualify as kidnapping.
"Go ahead and once you scan down you can clock out" and then I'll just enter it as you took VTO.
"I saw you drop that package; you either VTO or I'm going to write you up" because that's just what kind of asshole I am.
I had a boss lie to my face and I semi-called him for it. His reply was "Look, I just follow orders the same as you". The old Adolf Eichmann defense. Really? You think that helps?

5) Actually give employees a place where they can voice their complaints. Da Jungle (as I lovingly call it) has a strict open door policy ------ the door is open any time you want to walk your ass out it and find another job. Ask to talk to the site lead and you will be fired or given every shit job we got. Call the "confidential HR number" and you get fired. Yeah -- I know its confidential. But I also know that 11 of the 12 people who used it this year were canned for meaningless or made-up reasons the following week. So I have a feeling what they call confidential and what I call confidential are two different stories. And when you see your site HR sitting in the breakroom and hear them filling in the managers on just who is complaining about who ---------

I could go on all day.

It differs from place and time. You have a fantastic management team like we did when we first opened and there isn't a better job out there. Seriously; we had people pass up jobs with a better potential because it was that rewarding in terms of pride and being a part of a team. But with bad bosses it can be worse than slavery. A slave knows he at least has some value; he can be sold off. For us we feel more like toilet paper; to be covered in shit and tossed away. And you feel powerless to change it.

And since saying all this can get me fired ------------- lets keep it here please. Seriously. I can name a dozen people who got canned because one of the Company Bots found something posted on the net. First rule of Da Jungle is -- you don't talk about Da Jungle. An early friend got fired for saying how good it was! But he spoke to a reporter without permission and that just isn't allowed. That kind of stuff doesn't help either.
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Old 07-15-2019, 11:41 AM
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With unemployment rates at historical lows, there are plenty of people that would love to have your job.
Actually; no. We needed roughly 150 warn bodies for the next couple weeks. We got less than 100 by taking anything with a pulse who was not openly drooling or sharpening their knives. Right now with most folks working, things not looking that terrible, and us having the reputation we do -------- even at twice our state minimum wage its a hard sell. Folks can go to any of the other places around us, get treated like a human, and only make a buck or two less than I do. So that is what they do.
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Old 07-15-2019, 12:06 PM
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With unemployment rates at historical lows, there are plenty of people that would love to have your job.
I see kopek has already answered this, but specifically: this is not how low unemployment works. There are relatively few people who want to work who are not working, and many jobs that are going begging, especially jobs with low appeal. Therefore it's workers who have the choices, not employers.
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Old 07-15-2019, 12:10 PM
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First of all, make sure that the behaviors your are incenting are those that drive the success of the business. For instance, too many call centers incent agents on average hold time and call duration - neither of which relate to customer satisfaction and both of which can be maniplulated by the CC agent. A much better (IMHO) metric would be first call resolution. It is more difficult to track, which is why most companies don't incent agents on that metric, but it is really what drives call center success. Determine those behaviors that make your business successful, and reward them. Not easy, but any other approach is counterproductive.

Last edited by Doctor Jackson; 07-15-2019 at 12:11 PM.
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Old 07-15-2019, 12:29 PM
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kopek - Can I interest you in a summer job at winter a coat factory?

It'll be hot but with far less bullshit.
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Old 07-15-2019, 02:07 PM
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kopek - Can I interest you in a summer job at winter a coat factory?

It'll be hot but with far less bullshit.
Funny you would mention the place next door to us that just signed a huge deal with Walmart. I am seriously considering it but ----- its full-time and right now I'm not that interested in full-time. I work basically because I cannot watch television and I don't have the discipline to actually go to a gym. 18 to 30 hours is best and right at 20 would be perfect. Da Jungle gets me out of the house, get a good physical workout, lets me make friends across a really broad reach of humanity - and sometimes gives me a good chuckle when the bosses are especially stupid. It doesn't mean I won't quit --- or won't end up fired sooner or later. But in a place where 7 weeks earns you the rank of seasoned employee my 5 years almost makes me an exhibit in a freak show. And I actually kinda like it!
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Old 07-15-2019, 02:37 PM
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It's hard to find one thing that motivates everyone. Even when money is no object, some people just don't care. Some of the things that motivated me in the past:

Not my immediate boss, but his boss coming out and acknowledging me for a job well done. It was a quick handshake and "good job the other day", no one else was around, but it still made me feel good.
My immediate supervisor used to buy freezer pops out of his own pocket, throw them in the freezer and tell everyone to help themselves. He didn't have to do it, but he did it anyway and while those things are fairly cheap, it still made me feel good because "he thought of us".
Bosses that use the terms "we" and "us" rather than "me" or "mine"...It made me feel like we were all a team.
Bosses that would defend their people rather than throw them under the bus when a superior would accuse me or someone of doing something wrong.

Those were all motivators for me. Some people don't care for those things and would rather get a gift card or something tangible, I was a little easier to please I guess.
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Old 07-15-2019, 06:35 PM
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In my company I'm friends with the director of operations for the whse. They seem to get a lot of food rewards - pizza party, etc., when the goals are met for the facility. I think a major thing is making sure the folks are trained sufficiently (we distribute medications, and picking accuracy is extremely important) and that the individual goals are obtainable. From what I've heard about the local Amazon whse, the goals are set so high you're constantly running. Not just working at a consistent pace, but literally running. Our folks have metrics to meet, but it's much more important that they be accurate than fast.

My company doesn't have part-time positions, it's all full time, at least 40 hrs, with benefits from the day you start and 21 days of PTO the first year. Air-conditioned (although working in the cooler isn't fun, I'm sure). It's still a warehouse job, but I teach the warehouse folks Excel, to give them the skills to move into the office jobs, and most seem happy. Of course, those that aren't know they can go literally next store and get a whse job there.

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Old 07-15-2019, 06:47 PM
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Good pay (not just competitive), full time employment and benefits would be a pretty solid place to start. Seems to be the industries that struggle terribly with this stuff are the same ones that are squeezing margins and people in every brutal way possible. Asking how to get a near-minimum wage worker to perform better is ignoring the basic problem.
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Old 07-15-2019, 06:50 PM
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From what I've heard about the local Amazon whse, the goals are set so high you're constantly running. Not just working at a consistent pace, but literally running. Our folks have metrics to meet, but it's much more important that they be accurate than fast.
They aren't the only guilty party out there, but they make for an easy case study. They set goals....people meet those goals....they determine the goals were set too low....they increase the goals...rinse, lather, repeat. The business rule that you must always be improving is simply toxic. There literally is a maximum output but a spreadsheet doesn't really communicate that fact very well when it come to people.
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Old 07-15-2019, 08:14 PM
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There literally is a maximum output but a spreadsheet doesn't really communicate that fact very well when it come to people.
??? Time and motion study. That's latterly what the spreadsheet is supposed to communicate.
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Old 07-15-2019, 10:09 PM
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They aren't the only guilty party out there, but they make for an easy case study. They set goals....people meet those goals....they determine the goals were set too low....they increase the goals...rinse, lather, repeat. The business rule that you must always be improving is simply toxic. There literally is a maximum output but a spreadsheet doesn't really communicate that fact very well when it come to people.
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??? Time and motion study. That's latterly what the spreadsheet is supposed to communicate.
No, yes, and its more complicated than that all at once.

Our goals are set in terms of "takt time" - the time required to produce a perfect unit of work. And on their face mostly they are reasonable. Except --- things happen beyond your control. I am expected to be able to unload 6k boxes from a 53 foot trailer in 90 minutes, making sure each label is up and reasonably centered. Actually, most times, I can do it faster than that. If -- IF IF IF -- the person who loaded the trailer built nice clean faces/walls and the load didn't get abused in transit. If the trailer came from New Jersey I know I'm screwed because all 6k are basically going to look like they were dumped in through the roof. And there will be damaged boxes which slow me down. And missing labels. And spilled rancid soy milk (my joy of joys tonight) and ------- I am screwed for the next three hours. My hope is that I get something else where I can make up the shortfall. I actually care about the customer so I don't send on broken stuff or cut corners as most would and I still manage. Our takt times haven't changed very much in 5 years; what has changed is the quality of the ball we're handed. That has gone in the dumper.

And therefor the quality of what we pass along to the USPS has gone down. And to the customer in the end.

Our managers aren't really paid all that well; the big money is from production incentives and bonuses that apply only to them. And their bosses change the contest and the rules monthly. Last month it was total-production-per-hour. So all the bosses were basically "screw the customer, grab it, toss it, move it along". This month its things going to the wrong location - so this month we can move a little slower just as long as we remain 100% error free. Next month Lord knows what the game will be.

That is where it gets frustrating. I know what it takes to do perfect work; I CAN DO perfect work. And then I am ordered to do lousy work. I get paid the same and our building boss gets a free vacation to Europe. Until the end of the month when the rule book changes again. Customer centric? Maybe somewhere in Seattle they are. Me? I've seen managers personally load things they knew the customer would have to return just to get the scan/number/point. The peasant gets blamed and the boyar gets triple his pay in incentives.

If business is a game think of Da Jungle as rugby. Without the teamwork.
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Old 07-15-2019, 10:25 PM
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If the managers are given incentives to meet specific goals that somehow diverge from "perfect work" then that definition of perfect is inaccurate. I don't think anyone needs reminding that perfection as a standard is totally and completely unreasonable. You don't need to go to B-school to sort that one out.

The reason that managers are given changing goals is a tactic as old as time. They incentivize a focus on a specific aspect of work, knowing that it will have costs elsewhere. Their expectation is that the operation will improve by X amount in that aspect over the short term. This is good, but not the ultimate goal. The goal is that you'll have developed a new permanent habit in that regard. The next month you're given a different goal and you adjust, but you don't adjust all the way back to where you started. You adjust so that you're now at only 0.3X better in the original aspect while improving in the new area of focus by Y amount. They are now getting a free 0.3X improvement. When that 0.3X improvement deteriorates, they rerun the program to get everyone back up to X again and repeat the cycle.

It's not stupidity. They are manipulating human nature and playing the long game. This is cheaper than hiring good people and retaining them. All else being equal, a long tenured employee will always operate at the highest efficiency, but that costs more than grinding down a rotating flock of disposable drones though meaningless incentive programs like this.

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Old 07-16-2019, 08:22 AM
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Bear in mind, folks, that the OP asked about "incentives" not "motivators" - they are 2 very different things. Motivators are things that are more tangential to the companies immediate success, but make employees happier - things like salary, benefits, full time hours, etc. fit into this category. Incentives are things that don't necessarily contribute to employee happiness, but directly drive the success of the business - x widgets completed in y minutes at z quality level or sales quotas, for example.

A company that incents but doesn't motivate will likely see high turnover. A company that motivates but does not incent will likely not exist long.

Last edited by Doctor Jackson; 07-16-2019 at 08:22 AM.
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Old 07-16-2019, 08:37 AM
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It's not stupidity. They are manipulating human nature and playing the long game. This is cheaper than hiring good people and retaining them.
Again, IMHO, maybe. There is a book out there called "The Anything Store" -- it is worth a read. JB basically went with a more Japanese/Chinese model hoping to build something where the company and your family were at least equal if not "company first". And with the "Eleven Commandments" and the other things we had up until about 5 years ago it worked. If someone made it through Month 3 the chances were very good they would still be there Year 3. Usually if someone left (especially in management) is was not totally voluntary.

On the goals being unreasonable; that is by design but in the same way it is for say Marine boot camp. The jobs I do look impossible to you that first day you walk in the door. But ------ if you are lucky enough (now) to get trained in how they were designed to be done, you have a little luck from up the supply chain, and you half try, they are possible. But barely.

Again, going to the Marines -------- you will love it and you will hate it and that is the intention. But it is never dull.

Will check back but I'm doing doubles all week.
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:44 AM
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Back in high school, I had a summer job in a coat factory.
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Of course, this was a summer job for me so I wasn't exactly vested.
YEAAAAAAHHHHH!
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Old 07-16-2019, 10:14 AM
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YEAAAAAAHHHHH!
There's one in every group.
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Old 07-16-2019, 12:57 PM
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Again, going to the Marines -------- you will love it and you will hate it and that is the intention. But it is never dull.
This is a good point . . . these shit systems work because some percentage of the workforce is content enough being treated like shit, and/or believe in the system.

I have a friend who works for a major retailer who was recently relaying a story about how no one was allowed vacation or sick days on certain days of the year, no exceptions.

Take a sick day and get written up, and maybe fired. "We've even had people show up in their wedding outfits."

Want to inspire me to put the minimum amount of effort into my job? Threaten to fire me if I take my wedding day off work.

But for some people, this just feels like "the way things are" I guess. "The man" makes rules, and you complain and gripe all you want, but "the man" is "the man" after all; what do you expect?
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Old 07-17-2019, 07:34 AM
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This is a good point . . . these shit systems work because some percentage of the workforce is content enough being treated like shit, and/or believe in the system.
Again one of those true statements ------ but not quite. It isn't a matter of liking it so much as not minding it. And accepting that any day you show up your badge may not work at the turnstile; that is how we're usually told we're fired. If you are doing it as a temporary gig or you are like me and doing it partly for a lark, cool beans! Our "vacancy" light is always on and you are welcome. If you need the check or are thinking in terms of a career it sucks. And for us peasants its a lot better than it is for the bosses. Our site, like most, has its track record of broken marriages and suicides and we're just talking in 5 years. Ask someone again 20 years from now.

A few of us started joking about "Siberian Box Mines Local 419" and like all good jokes there is a grain of truth in it. It is a lot like the stories Grampap told about the hard-coal operations when he first got here. Heck, some people would say even with the unions and all there are times like that today. Why didn't he find another place to work? It was convenient, it fit his life, and while he didn't like it much he didn't hate it either. Its much the same with some of us.

I wish we had one of our "camper patrols" on the Dope. These are retired folks who basically traveling from place to place and working at the Local Jungle while there. Heck, they have even made up their own songs about the experience. They are always careful not to spread them much; the talking to media is what will probably get the strikers canned. But they do OK and have a little fun along with the work.

And I guess that brings another point I never really thought of; us old folks tend to tolerate it more than the kids do. Not just the abuse but also the work. We're more willing to do it as we're told and not how we think it should be done. From basics like how to pick up a box to big things like which one to pick up and what to do with it. I tell you with a certain pride that I can outwork people a third my age and do so on a daily basis. I don't think I could say the same thing on a ditch crew or replacing roofs. But here? Damn betcha! And there is some value in that to me even as a 60-something academic.
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Old 07-17-2019, 02:59 PM
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I've been reading and watching reports on conditions at places like Amazon warehouses. In my understanding, workers are motivated/incentivized to meet performance wickets, like delivering/processing X packages in Y time, mostly through negative means -- if they don't meet their wickets, then they might receive negative reports or even be fired. And this means that bathroom breaks can increase the chances of failure to meet these criteria. In my understanding, there are positive incentives, but these are pretty weak, like a fast food gift card.

Is this really the best way to motivate and incentivize performance?
It's Amazon. Don't the robots start beeping or buzzing loudly and angrily if they become idle because their carbon-based inter-blob isn't processing orders fast enough?
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:34 PM
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Again one of those true statements ------ but not quite. It isn't a matter of liking it so much as not minding it. And accepting that any day you show up your badge may not work at the turnstile; that is how we're usually told we're fired. If you are doing it as a temporary gig or you are like me and doing it partly for a lark, cool beans! Our "vacancy" light is always on and you are welcome. If you need the check or are thinking in terms of a career it sucks. And for us peasants its a lot better than it is for the bosses. Our site, like most, has its track record of broken marriages and suicides and we're just talking in 5 years. Ask someone again 20 years from now.
This is not OK. Not in any way shape or form. This is the kind of shit that made unions so important. Tolerating or justifying this type of environment is the kind of brainwashed shit that leads to black lung and mass deaths in fires.

Taking "pride" in being able to tolerate this. Happily comparing it to boot camp. You're part of the problem. When your coworker commits suicide because he's not doing the job "on a lark", he needs it to survive. If you can barely meet the minimum quota when everything, including things outside you control, go perfect, and your coworker has some bad luck that leads to him totally giving up on life...that's just the way things are?

Seriously man, this is fucking sick.
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:37 PM
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A company that incents but doesn't motivate will likely see high turnover. A company that motivates but does not incent will likely not exist long.
This is B-school tripe. 80% of white collar jobs have no "incentive" programs using your definition and they tend to excel and retain people. Motivation is always, always better than short term incentives. Anyone that tells you different should give back their degree because they learned the wrong lesson.
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Old 07-17-2019, 08:34 PM
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On the goals being unreasonable; that is by design but in the same way it is for say Marine boot camp. The jobs I do look impossible to you that first day you walk in the door. But ------ if you are lucky enough (now) to get trained in how they were designed to be done, you have a little luck from up the supply chain, and you half try, they are possible. But barely.

Again, going to the Marines -------- you will love it and you will hate it and that is the intention. But it is never dull.

Will check back but I'm doing doubles all week.

Sounds terrible.
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Old 07-17-2019, 10:56 PM
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It's Amazon. Don't the robots start beeping or buzzing loudly and angrily if they become idle because their carbon-based inter-blob isn't processing orders fast enough?
Amazon's system is rather ingenious. About a dozen years ago there was a company called Kiva that invented a system where all the products were stored on portable shelving units, and robots like little footstools would pick up the shelves and bring them to the pickers. So, rather than walk around a warehouse grabbing things and putting them on a cart, a picker would stand still and just grab things off the shelves as they passed by his station. Amazon was one of the retailers who bought that system from Kiva. They liked it so much they bought the whole company, stopped selling it to their competitors, and renamed it Amazon Robotics.

I work with at least a dozen ex-Kiva and AR folks.
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Old 07-17-2019, 11:38 PM
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This is not OK. Not in any way shape or form. This is the kind of shit that made unions so important. Tolerating or justifying this type of environment is the kind of brainwashed shit that leads to black lung and mass deaths in fires.
And dogs and cats living together and the end of civilization as we know it. Yeah, I've heard it all before. And the difference between this and the average small business or dysfunctional-family operated business is what exactly? Other than number of employees? Heck - I can name a dozen people who work for their families, not totally by choice, who would tell you Da Jungle is indeed a lark. Some of our best leadership arrived with the company for just that reason. And unions themselves can be snake pits; ask anyone who was around FASH or the USW in the 70s. Heck, dig up Jimmy Hoffa and ask him.

Like our sites, a place is only as good or bad as the people in charge and the side benefit with us is that list is ever changing.
  #30  
Old 07-18-2019, 04:04 AM
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And dogs and cats living together and the end of civilization as we know it. Yeah, I've heard it all before. And the difference between this and the average small business or dysfunctional-family operated business is what exactly? Other than number of employees? Heck - I can name a dozen people who work for their families, not totally by choice, who would tell you Da Jungle is indeed a lark. Some of our best leadership arrived with the company for just that reason. And unions themselves can be snake pits; ask anyone who was around FASH or the USW in the 70s. Heck, dig up Jimmy Hoffa and ask him.

Like our sites, a place is only as good or bad as the people in charge and the side benefit with us is that list is ever changing.
No offense, but you kind of sound a bit like a "battered housewife" in your posts.

There is a difference between working in an environment that is highly competitive and stressful because that is the nature of the work and one that is abusive to its employees.

The Marines create a challenging environment because they have an important and potentially highly dangerous mission defending our country and enforcing US foreign policy overseas. It sounds like you are just moving boxes around some distribution center so...what? People get their packages a bit faster?

A lot of companies apply similar techniques used by the military and religious cults to create environments that are often abusive to their employees. Early in my career, I worked at a technology consulting firm that was very cult like. They were actually quite upfront about it. We were issued business books on creating a "cult-like culture" and told how they want people to "drink the cool aid".

It's pretty simple really. You create an environment where people feel like they are lucky just to be there (tell them they are changing the world or some such shit). You set absurdly high expectations and celebrate people who go above and beyond to achieve them. But here's the creepy part. The more you can do to isolate the employees from the outside world, the better. "Perks" like free food, expensed meals, dry cleaning service, sleep pods, lots of team events outside of normal business hours, anything that removes outside distractions. Then you actively discourage outside activities like marriage, kids, getting a haircut on your lunch break on a Saturday. You isolate the employees and let peer pressure do most of the work. Eventually it even creates this "esprit de corps" where employees will celebrate how many all nighters they pulled or weekends worked.
  #31  
Old 07-18-2019, 08:03 AM
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No offense, but you kind of sound a bit like a "battered housewife" in your posts.
None taken. I'm more an observer of human behavior. Trained by the late Dr James Holland as a matter of fact a few epochs ago. Yeah, I could kill time almost anywhere ------ but this place is more fascinating in terms of behaviorism than Walden II. I don't see any real touches on Skinnerism but it has some of the same goals.


As for importance -- another time and place and we could debate that. We (me and my fellow workers) do now and then over beers. For people in rural and/or isolated situations Da Jungle has brought in some of the biggest changes since the development of the mail-order catalogue in general. It is the Anything Store - from porn and anal lube to inflatable kayaks (this PDs large seller from what I saw) and groceries all under one banner from someone who tries sometimes to actually deserve your trust. When we fold (and someday it will happen) it will probably be an even bigger ripple than the brick-and-mortar places closing.

As for the rest I got a few more 12 hour days left to do and we're drifting. So I'll see you again in a future thread.
  #32  
Old 07-18-2019, 08:17 AM
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This is B-school tripe. 80% of white collar jobs have no "incentive" programs using your definition and they tend to excel and retain people. Motivation is always, always better than short term incentives. Anyone that tells you different should give back their degree because they learned the wrong lesson.
I see. So in your world sales is not a white collar job? And no one in your white collar world gets rewarded for meeting internal and/or external Service Level Agreements? Those are just 2 quick examples I can think of that disprove your assertion.
  #33  
Old 07-18-2019, 10:33 AM
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I see. So in your world sales is not a white collar job? And no one in your white collar world gets rewarded for meeting internal and/or external Service Level Agreements? Those are just 2 quick examples I can think of that disprove your assertion.
I think it's a difference between creating a long-term culture of high achievement vs short term rewards for measurable successes. The problem with any short term incentive is that a) it tends to reward people for just doing their job and b) it tends to create unintended consequences as people adapt their behavior to maximize the reward. For example, paying QA engineers by the defect found is a great way to introduce a lot of defects.

Another way to think of it is this - would you be more willing to work long hours if you felt that the work you are doing is interesting and important or if you get a token bonus and a Starbucks card for your overtime?
  #34  
Old 07-18-2019, 10:43 AM
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Make it profit share. No motivator like skin in the game.
  #35  
Old 07-18-2019, 12:08 PM
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I think it's a difference between creating a long-term culture of high achievement vs short term rewards for measurable successes. The problem with any short term incentive is that a) it tends to reward people for just doing their job and b) it tends to create unintended consequences as people adapt their behavior to maximize the reward. For example, paying QA engineers by the defect found is a great way to introduce a lot of defects.

Another way to think of it is this - would you be more willing to work long hours if you felt that the work you are doing is interesting and important or if you get a token bonus and a Starbucks card for your overtime?
Which is why I said, in my first post in this thread, "First of all, make sure that the behaviors your are incenting are those that drive the success of the business". It boggles my mind how many businesses incent behaviors that don't drive the success of the business and, in many cases, actually end up being reverse incentives that damage the business.
  #36  
Old 07-18-2019, 07:32 PM
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I see. So in your world sales is not a white collar job? And no one in your white collar world gets rewarded for meeting internal and/or external Service Level Agreements? Those are just 2 quick examples I can think of that disprove your assertion.
Sales is the 20%. And no, the only rewards most employees get are salaries and if you're lucky revenue sharing in the form of options or bonuses, things which are part of the normal comp. In fact, based on your definitions most sales folks don't get "incentives" either since their comp model is basically their normal, albeit variable, salary. Spiffs, which you call incentives, are not used all that often except for with very entry-level positions like biz dev and support call centers. Companies that pay highly competitive salaries are certainly not giving out pizza parties, gift cards and parking spots for short term objectives, skilled workers are too valuable and hard to replace to risk burnout for short sighted shit like that.
  #37  
Old 07-19-2019, 08:23 AM
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Sales is the 20%. And no, the only rewards most employees get are salaries and if you're lucky revenue sharing in the form of options or bonuses, things which are part of the normal comp. In fact, based on your definitions most sales folks don't get "incentives" either since their comp model is basically their normal, albeit variable, salary. Spiffs, which you call incentives, are not used all that often except for with very entry-level positions like biz dev and support call centers. Companies that pay highly competitive salaries are certainly not giving out pizza parties, gift cards and parking spots for short term objectives, skilled workers are too valuable and hard to replace to risk burnout for short sighted shit like that.
We obviously work in different worlds. All of the sales people I work with have incentives built in to their jobs. And bonuses are NOT part of "normal comp". In fact, in most cases bonuses fall into 2 categories - STIP and LTIP. STIP is Short Term Incentive Plan and is usually based on annual, company wide goals. LTIP is Long Term Incentive Plan and is based on 5-10 year goals. STIP and LTIP are not guaranteed, they are truly incentives based on how well the company does. Have a bad year, no one gets a STIP bonus, have a great year and everyone gets the max.

ETA: STIP and LTIP are not generally used in sales organizations. Their incentives are usually based on sales goals and are usually monthly or quarterly. STIP and LTIP are unusually for white collar managers.

Last edited by Doctor Jackson; 07-19-2019 at 08:27 AM.
  #38  
Old 07-20-2019, 02:32 PM
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Amazon's system is rather ingenious. About a dozen years ago there was a company called Kiva that invented a system where all the products were stored on portable shelving units, and robots like little footstools would pick up the shelves and bring them to the pickers. So, rather than walk around a warehouse grabbing things and putting them on a cart, a picker would stand still and just grab things off the shelves as they passed by his station. Amazon was one of the retailers who bought that system from Kiva. They liked it so much they bought the whole company, stopped selling it to their competitors, and renamed it Amazon Robotics.

I work with at least a dozen ex-Kiva and AR folks.
Systems like these are a fun optimization problem. I like the Kiva robot solution (in the "goods to man" category), but it's interesting to analyze the pros and cons of these types of solutions.

Some good things:
Picking walk distance is eliminated (which is wasted money)
Small incremental cost (can add robots individually)
Physical arrangement is more flexible (easier to adjust) than conveyor systems or sorters+asrs's (see below)

Some challenges:
Seasonal variation in volumes (e.g. xmas peak volumes) means that you need to invest in enough capacity (robots) to meet peak demand, which means you have a much larger investment in robots than is required for most of the year. With humans you can flex by adding temp workers.


Here's another solution in this same category, it's called an ASRS system and brings the units to humans on the exterior of the system where they pick the units and then it returns the remaining items. In the installed versions I've seen it's a huge self contained box with humans at stations on the outside where the goods show up out of a tunnel and then return inside:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLW_ZSR3m2A

This has a similar problem as the robot (or any fully automated portion of a system), you need to buy enough capacity to meet peak demands, which means most of the capacity is idle until xmas.
  #39  
Old 07-20-2019, 06:06 PM
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Systems like these are a fun optimization problem. I like the Kiva robot solution (in the "goods to man" category), but it's interesting to analyze the pros and cons of these types of solutions.

Some good things:
Picking walk distance is eliminated (which is wasted money)
Small incremental cost (can add robots individually)
Physical arrangement is more flexible (easier to adjust) than conveyor systems or sorters+asrs's (see below)

Some challenges:
Seasonal variation in volumes (e.g. xmas peak volumes) means that you need to invest in enough capacity (robots) to meet peak demand, which means you have a much larger investment in robots than is required for most of the year. With humans you can flex by adding temp workers.
Kiva (now Amazon) systems have a small incremental cost to add capacity, but a big startup cost to get the systems installed and running in the first place. When Amazon made that technology exclusive to their own distribution centers, it opened a market for robotic picking systems at non-Amazon sites. That's who I work for now; we make warehouse/picking robots, although quite different from the way Amazon's work.

We do have discussions about how difficult the jobs in distribution centers are. There's not a lot we do in terms of offering incentives, but we hope that we make the jobs a bit better, at least.
  #40  
Old 07-20-2019, 06:31 PM
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It sounds like people need appropriate bathroom break time, but it sounds monstrous to tell people that they only get sufficient bathroom breaks as a reward for performance.

Another employee complaint is unpredictable schedules. They could reward their highest performers with a set schedule for a week or two.

That's just intellectual spitballing; in reality I think Amazon needs to be incentivized to allow their employees latitude to eat, drink, take a piss, and have predictable shifts for 2-4 weeks at a time. My incentive would be to do that or go to jail until you figure out how to do it.
  #41  
Old 07-23-2019, 02:07 PM
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I worked in a big box warehouse after high school while I was getting my associates degree. It wasn't non-stop like a distribution center is, but we had our share of BS and like kopek says, management made all the difference. Good managers you wanted to do right by and for, and the bad ones you just kind of slacked off under and avoided.

My son works at a UPS distribution hub these days, about 25 hours a week in the evenings. He's the guy loading the trailers or air cans. At 6'4" he's the guy making the walls. He's been there about a year, and when he drags himself in on Mondays(they're the worst) he kvetches like an old man and I think it's hilarious. I tell him "stay in school kids!"

The other day he came in extra late and exhausted. He said most of the night had been very slow, mostly standing around waiting on things to load. Eventually they discovered why. Some bright spark had shipped a huge magnet in a poorly shielded/too small box and it had adhered to the side of a sorting chute and caused huge backup that they didn't understand. The sorters thought the loaders were loafing. The loaders thought the sorters were slacking. When they found out what it was my son said he fell over laughing. Then worked his ass off for the next two and a half hours to catch up and clear the backlog.

Oh, and if you buy a gas grill from Amazon, know that someone out there hates you.

Enjoy,
Steven
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