As the CEO of eBay, I keep employees productive by asking this simple question about our work

Headshot of Jamie Iannone against a warm grey background with square graphic elements
At eBay, investments in artificial intelligence are helping boost seller and employee productivity, according to CEO Jamie Iannone.Photo courtesy of Jamie Iannone; Alyssa Powell/BI
  • Jamie Iannone, the CEO of eBay, says the company is using AI to boost efficiency and creativity.

  • He said eBay measures productivity by asking: Am I making every minute matter?

  • This story is part of "What's Next," a series about business leaders' strategies for workplace productivity.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jamie Iannone, the CEO of eBay. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Teams are most productive when they have shared goals, operate with a sense of urgency, and are working toward measurable outcomes. For us, this means being customer-obsessed and making sure the entire organization is focused on delivering for our global community of sellers and buyers.

At eBay, we are reinventing the future of e-commerce for enthusiasts. This means building experiences that are tailored specifically to our customers, where they can easily discover things they love. We're doing this by investing in what makes eBay special: unique items at scale, inventory that fuels interests, features that make shopping and selling easy and enjoyable, and a community united by shared passions.

Putting the customer at the heart of everything we do results in a more seamless selling and buying experience, and we take feedback very seriously.

Our customer-service representatives have tools to share what they're hearing in real time, ensuring these insights are surfaced directly to the product teams developing new experiences for our buyers and sellers.

For example, customers have shared they want the listing process to be easier and faster — everything from writing descriptions to filling out item specifics. After getting this direct feedback, our product teams developed tools powered by AI, including a description generator and an image-based listing flow. These innovations have resulted in some of the highest customer satisfaction scores to date.

We also know high-quality product images are proven to result in faster sales, yet we've heard from customers that it can be challenging to create them. We enhanced our background removal tool, helping sellers create even more beautiful images and enabling them to move their inventory more quickly.

We hire employees who are enthusiasts themselves and allow them to channel their passion and knowledge to make sure that the best sellers and inventory are on our platform every day.

These are small ways we put the right processes and measurements in place to maximize the positive customer impact our people can have.

Customer satisfaction is the key to our success at eBay. Therefore, it's our most important metric. Customer-satisfaction scores are critical to long-term success, and we have a companywide goal that's linked to performance reviews and our employee incentive plan.

There is real power in satisfying customers — not only will they return for more, but they'll also recommend eBay to their friends and family.

We're also doubling down on investments that will help us exceed the expectations of enthusiast shoppers. This includes investing in and expanding our authentication program, which ensures a trained expert is inspecting sold items to check that they match the description and quality of a listing before it ships to the buyer.

We're focused on driving satisfaction across categories where eBay has a real competitive advantage and differentiated experience, like collectibles, motors, and luxury fashion. If we can bring an enthusiast shopper to eBay for a best-in-class experience, they will shop in other categories as well.

eBay is using AI to drive the company forward

eBay has been using AI for years. You simply can't operate a marketplace of our size and scope without it. We have 132 million active buyers in 190 markets around the world and enabled $73 billion of gross merchandise volume in 2023.

The latest advancements in generative AI have allowed us to unlock the rich data that we have collected over our nearly 30 years in business. The pace of innovation at eBay has benefited from the rollout of a new core AI platform last year, which allows us to incorporate AI across all aspects of our business.

We've been building tools to help sellers grow their business by making the job of listing products fast and easy and reducing the operational burden of managing their storefronts. For instance, the "magical listing" experience leverages generative AI to instantly populate item descriptions based on a product's title, category, and other item aspects, eliminating the difficult work for our sellers.

For our buyers, we've been launching AI-powered experiences that help them find what they're looking for through natural-language search, using generative models to personalize our recommendations, and providing AI-powered expert content in key categories.

For our employees, leaders across our company have been working on piloting several different approaches, all meant to unlock the creativity of our software engineers, analysts, customer-service representatives, and content creators and make it easier for employees to spend more time on the highest-value work.

This includes using AI to help refactor code with tools like GitHub Copilot, along with eBay's own internal AI Hub, that add velocity to our product development lifecycle. The goal is to get new innovations to customers faster, and we're finding AI tools make our developers stronger and free up their time to be creative and try new things.

We expect AI investments to impact nearly every aspect of our organization, driving efficiency, collaboration, and productivity improvements. We're really excited about the opportunity for AI advancements to increase the pace of innovation on behalf of our customers.

eBay is optimizing its workplace after laying off 9% of employees this year

Our results demonstrate that our strategy is the right one, but we knew we needed to better organize our teams for speed of execution, allowing us to be more nimble and make decisions quicker. We simplified our structure as a part of this process to better position eBay for long-term, sustainable growth.

One way our teams measure productivity now is by asking this question: Am I making every minute matter? This prompts discussions around how teams spend their time — for example, stopping or deprioritizing lower-value activities, bringing like work together to drive faster decisions, limiting time spent in long "inform" meetings that don't generate immediate results, and dedicating more time to collaborative huddles that result in outcomes.

Most importantly, eBay exists to connect people and build communities. This purpose — to create economic opportunity for all — is deeply embedded in our DNA. In the same way, we understand the value of satisfied customers. We also know that happy employees are more productive employees.

Our leaders must continue to provide an environment to do meaningful work that has a positive impact on the world. It's what motivates our team members and leads to an employee culture of finding ways to give back. We take this responsibility very seriously because millions of sellers count on eBay to make them more productive. They have built businesses on eBay and rely on us to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Read the original article on Business Insider