Amazon’s workplace practices have come under scrutiny after a fierce New York Times piece detailing how the company differs from its competitors in what it expects from employees.
Data and metrics are used at every stage of the process in order to evaluate employees and their performance. Brutal honesty on ideas is traded among colleagues and secret feedback is sent to co-workers’ bosses. “Purposeful Darwinism” leaves a minority of workers out of a job at the end of each year. Returns from leave are met with performance evaluations.
These are just a sampling of the workplaces practices that have simultaneously led to the most creative and efficient of solutions, as well as one of the most stressful and crushing of workplaces. Turnover is high, with only 15 percent of its employees having worked there more than five years.
In crafting a high-risk, high-reward environment, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expects undying fealty to the needs of the consumer as well as total immersion into the ethos of the corporation. The ideal worker is not merely an “Amazonian” but an “Amabot.”
What does Amazon gain from this model of employment? What does it lose? And by its own definition, does it deliver?
Brad Stone, author of “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” (Little, Brown and Company, 2013). He is also a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in San Francisco
John Boudreau, Ph.D., Professor and Research Director at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations; co-author of “Beyond HR: The New Science of Human Capital”