August 09, 2016

Amazon’s Workplace Culture

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

In a previous post, I described my tour of an Amazon Fulfillment Center. I was impressed with the level of efficiency I saw there; it is important to understand how efficiency is supported by the company culture and social norms. I can only speak to what I saw on my short visit, but so much was apparent!

Once inside the warehouse, along the main walkway, there are posters reminding workers of the leadership principles, or "articles of faith" that serve as guideposts to workplace expectations behavior. Customer Obsession, Ownership, Learn And Be Curious, Hire And Develop The Best, Insist On The Highest Standards are just a few. These social norms are taken seriously; not only are they posted all over the place, but our tour leader mentioned that they are reinforced often through performance reviews and standing meetings.

Employees meet with their managers by standing, (yes, standing up, not sitting), to hear what’s working and what isn’t. Our tour leader also mentioned that people get acknowledged and applauded at these meetings if they’ve achieved goals above and beyond expectations. These can also be difficult discussions, since one of the principles of leadership is “Have Backbone; Disagree And Commit.”

Along that walkway, Human Resources employees work visibly in windowed offices. There is a large health and safety area. There are also vending machines with gloves, box cutters, and safety vests. The tour leader demonstrated how they use their badge to get what they need to do their work if they did not have those crucial items. He mentioned that at the Seattle corporate headquarters, they have similar vending machines with laptops and mice and other technology office workers need. They can keep track of what and how much workers at both sites take, yet it isn’t a big deal, because they need these items for working.

The wall to the entry area (walkway) was all glass and featured the logo Amazon Career Choice. Our tour leader explained that the Career Choice program was all about giving employees, after one year, the option of taking college classes to earn certificates or associates degrees in high-demand occupations (including those not necessarily needed inside Amazon) with 95% tuition and fee payment and 95% textbook reimbursement. He said that Amazon wanted its workers to “live their dream,” even if that dream took them out of Amazon. Employees get full benefits and there is a program to recruit veterans for employment.

The Career Choice program makes sense; the Amazon workforce has a lot of turnover by design, partly due to the constant innovation and pressure to perform. By encouraging employees to better their skills, some will stay and be promoted, others will move onto other careers or jobs, with gratitude for the company’s support for their education. Their vacancies provide openings for more new hires that can prove themselves through their work. This ensures that they still “Hire and Develop the Best” workers, reinforcing their leadership principles and ensuring cheaper labor with higher-paid workers leaving and bringing in lower-paid new workers.

There are also opportunities to win or earn perks like T-shirts or gift cards as rewards for performance. Our tour leader also mentioned that they get compensated if their performance is better than others. He explained that this is linked to their leadership principles. Every year, those who do not perform as well as others are asked to leave, thus opening more job opportunities for new employees.

Workers wear clothing that signifies their job – and their position in the organization’s hierarchy. T-shirts and/or vests are color coded to show what job one has. Once can just look around and know who does what job.

Have you ever toured a work facility that was not your own? I challenge you to do so and see what sociological work can apply to and analyze aspects of the setting. In just a 75-minute tour, it is apparent that Amazon does so well in the consumer marketplace in part because of the pressure they place on workers. So much so, that even though I am an Amazon customer, I was compelled to stop at a local independent bookstore on my way home and buy a few books there.

Comments

open office and culture which promotes learning and creativity is important to any organization

Yeah, Its a decent method to purchase offer the books on the web, understudies can get a lot of book related to their subjects, I mean Amazon is doing extremely enormous work for the online peruses. Tutors can likewise get a ton of books for their educational cost time.

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