Power and Risk: 5 Takeaways on Amazon’s Employment Machine

Power and Risk: 5 Takeaways on Amazon's Employment Machine

Power and Risk: 5 Takeaways on Amazon’s Employment Machine

Outsiders observe a legendary business success tale. Many insiders see the employment system under pressure.
An Amazon worker tries to return from a Covid-related leave and is accidentally fired. A wife panics because her terminally ill husband’s disability benefits stop. An employee is fired for having a less productive day.
An examination by The New York Times of how the outbreak unfolded inside Amazon’s sole fulfillment center in New York City, known as JFK8, found that the crisis exposed the strength and vulnerability of Amazon’s employment system. done. The company, famous for its satisfied customers, achieved record growth and impressive profits, but the management of its millions of warehouse workers was sometimes marked by critical errors, communication breakdowns, and high turnover. Power and Risk: 5 Takeaways on Amazon’s Employment Machine
Here are the takeaways:

Amazon is churning through employees.

Amazon posted job growth in 2020 which was unprecedented in US corporate history. It hired 350,000 workers in just three months, which is more than St. Louis‘ entire population. Louis — offering a minimum wage of $15 an hour and good benefits.
But even before the pandemic, previously unreported data showed, Amazon was losing about 3 percent of its hourly associates each week — meaning its turnover was down nearly 150 percent annually. At that rate, Amazon had to replace the equivalent of its entire workforce roughly every eight months.
“Attention is just one data point, which when used alone lacks important context,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in response to questions about the company’s turnover.
Inside Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, the turnover has some executives worried that the company may be shorting workers. Paul Stroup, who recently led human resources teams focused on understanding warehouse workers, was disappointed that he “didn’t hear long-term thinking” about quick cycling by the company’s workers. He likened it to the use of fossil fuels despite climate change.

Some workers accidentally lost their benefits, and even their jobs, because of the buggy and patchwork system.

More than 25 current and former Amazon employees who worked on the disability and leave system lamented its inadequacy in interviews, calling it a source of frustration and panic. Problems grew during the early months of the pandemic when a new case management system designed to address problems and provide flexibility was still in its infancy. Workers who applied for leave were punished for missing work notices to quit, and then termination. Anyway, he fired by mistake.
Dangelo Padilla, who works as an Amazon case manager in a back office in Costa Rica, said he has seen many people fired for no reason.
He said that I saw these situations every day.
The company had granted immediate personal leave during the pandemic, hired 500 people to handle the increased volume, and asked employees before laying them off, said Ms. Nantel, a spokeswoman for the company. Efforts made to contact them to find out if they wanted to keep their jobs.

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Amazon’s strict monitoring of workers has created a culture of fear.

Amazon tracks every movement of workers within its warehouses. Employees who work too, or are idle for too long, are at risk of fire.
Diana Santos was a top performer when she had a bad day in 2019. His bus delayed, then his department reassigned, forcing him to scour the warehouse for a new workstation. That afternoon, she stunned to learn that she is getting too much “time-off-task” or TOT with very few colleagues fired for low productivity or time off task, but the employees don’t know this.

The goal, JFK8’s internal guidelines state, “is to create an environment where we’re writing to everyone, but colleagues know we’re auditing for TOT.”
The system designed to identify these barriers. But some executives, including the early architect of Amazon’s warehouse human relations, worry that metrics have now cast a large shadow over the workforce, creating an uneasy, negative environment. happening
After questions from The Times about Ms. Santos and TOT, Amazon announced changes to its policy to never fire workers for a bad day. Ms. Santos and all others like her are now eligible to return to work. The business said that it has been reevaluating the policy for some months.

Growing concern over racial inequality.

Employees of color are the bulk of the retail behemoth’s workforce. According to 2019 internal records, more than 60 percent of JFK8’s colleagues are black or Latino.
And black coworkers in the warehouse were 50 percent more likely to fire. Whether for productivity, misconduct, or absenteeism — than their white colleagues, records show. (Amazon said it could not verify the data without knowing more details about its source.) Derek Palmer, a black JFK8 activist, started at the company in 2015 as an enthusiast and was often a top producer. But amid constant surveillance. The perception is that many workers are lazy and lack opportunities for advancement. “Many minority workers felt like we were being used,” Mr. Palmer said.

The business launched diversity initiatives last spring, with a goal to “retain personnel at statistically equivalent rates across all demographics” – a subliminal admission that the figures varied significantly by generation. Leaders at JFK8 undertake weekly “talent evaluation” sessions to make sure that workers of color, among others, promoted.

Many of Amazon’s controversial policies go back to Jeff Bezos’ original vision.

Some of the practices that frustrate employees the most—the short-term employment model, with little opportunity for advancement, and the use of technology to hire, monitor, and manage workers—Amazon Comes from founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos.
He believed a stronger workforce created a “march toward mediocrity,” said David Niekerk, a long-serving former vice president who ran the company’s original human resources operations in warehouses. Built.

He said that company data showed that most employees became less enthusiastic over time and that Mr. Bezos believed that people were inherently lazy. What he would argue is that it is in our nature as humans to use the least amount of energy to accomplish what we need or want, according to Mr. Niekerk said. Recent stunning admissions by Mr. Bezos over the system he created.
What’s not clear is how he and his successors will reassess the systems that have driven Amazon’s dominance.
Mr. Cavagnaro, the worker Amazon unceremoniously fired, asked: “Are they going to solve the problem of an expendable workforce? Are there going to be any changes?”

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