Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos released his annual shareholder letter Thursday, giving a progress report of the company’s various products and initiatives. Of particular note are updates to its delivery-by-drone experiments and unusual employee retention efforts.
To better deliver products to customers, Amazon, named one of Fast Company‘s Most Innovative Companies in retail, has partnered with the U.S. Postal Service to offer Sunday deliveries in some cities. In China and India, it hired bike couriers to deliver packages in major metropolitan areas. Most interesting of all, the e-commerce company is testing the drone deliveries Bezos first alluded to in a 60 Minutes interview back in December. He said the company has flight tested its fifth- and sixth-generation drones and is in the midst of designing its seventh- and eighth-generation crafts.
“Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional,” Bezos wrote in the letter. “We understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right. When this process works, it means our failures are relatively small in size (most experiments can start small), and when we hit on something that is really working for customers, we double-down on it with hopes to turn it into an even bigger success. However, it’s not always as clean as that. Inventing is messy, and over time, it’s certain that we’ll fail at some big bets too.”
To help employee retention, the company said it will finance 95% of tuition for related courses employees take. In addition, Amazon borrowed a pay-to-quit policy from Zappos. The program will offer employees $2,000 to quit in their first year, and an additional $1,000 for each year they stay on, capped at $5,000. “We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay,” Bezos said. “Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”
Check out the rest of Bezos’s letter here.