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Before becoming the director of global benefits at Amazon, Lian Neeman didn’t have the usual background of a leader in the field: she had come to the company with software development and computer science expertise in 2008. During her first several years, she helped Amazon build technology that was leveraged at retail stores to sell devices. She also led tech efforts for human capital management systems.
But her technological know-how is part of what makes her such a standout leader. She understands the power tech can have on improving the employee experience and has committed to bringing the innovation Amazon is known for to the benefits space.
“There’s been an untapped opportunity in providing technology that realizes the diversity we have in the human population,” she says. “We have the data we need to better connect people with things that are right for them and from a business lens—there’s already a large investment in making sure our people are happy and productive so they can deliver on behalf of customers. We just need to continue to add science and technology to the equation to provide that kind of experience.”
Providing these tools has been her focus since becoming director of software development and Amazon benefits in 2021, and global benefits director in 2022. She and her colleagues have worked to reimagine the benefits experience by using technology that makes it easy for employees and their family members to discover and access their benefits.
“What that means is if you need to talk to a mental health provider, you can get on a phone call or start a chat to be connected with one within minutes,” Neeman says. “You have access to search for doctors, get your insurance information, to look at your 401(K) and adjust amounts.” Since closing the gap in what Amazon provides and the ability to access them, Neeman’s team has seen a stronger connection with the employees.
Increasing accessibility is only one of many ways Neeman has striven to create an environment where employees can be at their best. Another is through her leadership style, which she describes as “an iron fist in a silk glove.” She’s friendly, approachable, and always willing to listen, but she also won’t hold back on sharing her thoughts and opinions.
“I’m not afraid to have those hard conversations and to share blunt feedback,” Neeman shares, which she’s found is the best place to start. When managers don’t steer away from those conversations, she explains, they can understand their employees better and come to a place where either they agree to disagree and find a path forward, or they find a missing or misunderstood data point and can align from there.
Neeman has simple advice for young people looking to succeed in their careers and to innovate in their desire fields—don’t be afraid to speak up.
“Early in my career, I was once in a meeting, and I wasn’t saying anything. At some point, a senior manager asked what I thought about something,” she remembers. While Neeman feared being called out, she did have something to contribute and went on to give valuable feedback. “Through that experience and others, I realized that it’s important to make sure that all of the facts and information are heard and that you shouldn’t be afraid to offer some of those details. You’re at the company for a reason and your voice matters.”
Neeman Shares Amazon’s Employee Experience Mission
“Our mission is to support our employees as they invent and deliver on behalf of customers. A part of that is making sure you are in a healthy, productive state—that you have the right financial situation set up so you aren’t stressed about that and you feel like your family is supported. Our job is to provide those support systems to make sure you can see a doctor when you need to, that you have the right tools to provide peace of mind, and that you have opportunities to continue your education.”
One of Neeman’s Proudest Accomplishments at Amazon
“An area I’m particularly proud of is the work we’ve done in mental health. We live in a globally challenged environment with so much going on, from economic pressures to war and conflict. That’s why we’ve been working to expand global coverage, so any employee and family member can get support when they need to talk to a professional, whether it’s a short-term or long-term crisis.”
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