Amazon aims to add best employer tag to its most customer centric reputation

Discussion
Photo: Amazon
Apr 16, 2021
George Anderson

Amazon.com can walk and chew gum at the same time. That’s the message from Jeff Bezos in his final letter to investors as Amazon CEO in which he pledges to turn the most customer centric company on the planet into the best employer with the safest workplace environment as well.

Mr. Bezos chose not to take a victory lap after an attempt to unionize a warehouse in Bessemer, AL, failed with the vast majority of workers voting against being represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Even with that win in hand, Mr. Bezos said a variety of factors have led him to conclude that the company needs to have “a better vision for our employees’ success.”

“We shouldn’t settle for 94 percent of employees saying they would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work,” Mr. Bezos wrote. “We have to aim for 100 percent. And we’ll do that by continuing to lead on wages, on benefits, on upskilling opportunities, and in other ways that we will figure out over time.”

Amazon’s CEO said that shareholders should not be concerned that becoming the best place in the world to work would reduce the customer obsession that has made it into a retail and technology powerhouse.

“If we can operate two businesses as different as consumer e-commerce and AWS, and do both at the highest level, we can certainly do the same with these two vision statements. In fact, I’m confident they will reinforce each other,” he wrote.

In related news, Amazon has also pledged to increase the number of women in senior technical jobs by 30 percent this year and to double the number of Blacks in high level positions in the company’s U.S. businesses. Women currently fill 22.8 percent of senior leadership roles at Amazon, while Black employees fill 3.8 percent.

This is not the first time that Amazon has set hiring goals for underrepresented groups of employees. Beth Galetti, senior vice president of people eXperience and technology at the company, writes that in 2020, Amazon set out to double the number of Black directors and vice presidents within the organization.

Ms. Galetti thanked Amazon’s workers for sharing their stories.

“Tough feedback is always uncomfortable to hear, but their stories remind us that we have more work to do to achieve our goals,” she said.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect Amazon to bring a similar level of focus to becoming the best place to work as it does to satisfying its millions of customers? Where do you stand on the philosophy that putting the employee first ensures that they will put the customer first?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Sure they have a long way to go, but it’d be a mistake to count them out."
"Jeff Bezos has read the tea leaves and, as usual, made the right call. Threats of unionization will continue unless conditions change for warehouse employees."
"Actions speak louder than words. As a final legacy message, these are nice words. Let’s see what has or has not changed in two years."

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "Amazon aims to add best employer tag to its most customer centric reputation"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Amazon the world’s best employer – now you’re talking Jeff. It’s an aspiration commensurate with the successful company you built — but talk is cheap. The proof is in your actions, not in your words. The world is watching. I strongly agree that you need to treat employees well and when you do, it’s reflected in how they treat customers and that ultimately translates into better business results. It’s all connected.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Do happy employees make for happy customers? Just ask the late Tony Hsieh.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Actions speak louder than words. As a final legacy message, these are nice words. Let’s see what has or has not changed in two years.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I agree with the concept – happy employees are critical to retailer success. Do I think Amazon is going to become the leader there? Not if what’s past is prologue to the future.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Actually, over the last 10 years Amazon has ranked in various positions in the top 20 of best employers. In 2020, they were #2 on the Forbes World’s Best Employers list.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Well, I’m not sure those rankings mean anything, to be honest. The words of their employees, and frankly the company’s own commercials, which tout that the company “has changed” tell another story.

I always wonder how those rankings of all sorts are calculated.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Your point about the research structure is valid. You more than most of us know how much sample and question construction can direct research outcomes. But it’s also fair to point out that the words you refer to only come from some of the employees. Couple that with the known propensity for disgruntled respondents to talk more than happy customers (or employees) and the love of a negative lede in today’s media and I think lot’s of this is questionable.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Forbes ranked Amazon #2 on its World’s Best Employers 2020 list. To compile the list, Forbes surveyed 160,000 employees from 750 companies in 58 countries around the world and asked them to rate their willingness to recommend their employers to friends and family. It seems Bezos is on way to meeting the goal.

Over the years Amazon has be highly ranked on the best employer list. One wonders how much of the media reporting is hype. As I noted in previous posts, over the decades big employers, right or wrong, have been lambasted about their practices. Just ask McDonald’s and Walmart.

The vote in the Alabama warehouse also supports that Amazon’s employment practices are on the right side of good.

And yes, happy employees make happy customers!

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

I haven’t examined the Forbes methodology, so I wonder how many lower-tier versus management-level employees participated.

Gene, your assessment of the Alabama union vote is a poor argument for Amazon. So many factors go into those kinds of votes including past history of union failures, that don’t align as clear indicators of good versus bad working conditions. In Bessemer Alabama, Amazon is essentially the only sizeable employer. The threat of unionization driving Amazon away and leaving the town back where it was when the steel mill closed (the site Amazon built on), largely jobless, was clearly a major factor among many. And that did not quell talk of Amazon employee unionization talks elsewhere.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I don’t think the Alabama vote will quell any talk of unionization at other sites. Amazon is a huge employer and must be a target for unions to organize. If I am writing a 5-year plan for my union, Amazon must be my #1 target for development.

Venky Ramesh
BrainTrust

Let’s not forget that, with over 1.3 million people working at Amazon, any disgruntled employee can propagate bad press to six other people in their network. Not exactly like viral transmission, but you get the picture. It probably makes more sense for Amazon to convert each of its employees into a brand ambassador.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

If there’s one thing we should’ve all learned this century it’s this: NEVER underestimate Amazon. Given that, they may achieve that “best employer” goal. Sure they have a long way to go, but it’d be a mistake to count them out.

Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

Jeff Bezos has read the tea leaves and, as usual, made the right call. Threats of unionization will continue unless conditions change for warehouse employees. As to whether Amazon will put forth the same focus and commitment as it has toward customers – that remains to be seen.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Threats of unionization will continue as long as there are union organizers on union payrolls, no matter what happens with conditions for employees. When it comes to member support, the only real remaining strength in unions in the U.S. lies with public worker unions. And they know they need the presence of some private union structure to give them the cover that protects them from state taxpayers who would love to be rid of them too.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Yes. Amazon sees the intrinsic rewards and competitive rationale for showing its workers more love. It’s serious about listening to all stakeholders and living up to high standards.

Improving the employee experience will improve the customer experience, as Target’s approach shows. That’s why Amazon is sincere in its efforts to improve employee relations and earn their trust and loyalty.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

This is going to come down to Amazon’s definition of “success in achieving the vision.” As Gene has already pointed out, they consistently rank in the Top 20 employers in employee-generated rankings now. And 94 percent of 1.3 million employees is huge. Not something very many if any companies could claim in raw numbers. But 6 percent of 1.3 million is also a huge number when it comes to folks dissatisfied and willing to express it. Top that off with the fact that those folks find an eager megaphone waiting for their complaints. Pundits and politicians know the relative impact of pummeling Amazon is exponentially greater than almost any other company they can pile onto. So if the definition of “success” is “better press” then Amazon should spend their efforts on getting Jeff Bezos in contact with Doug McMillon at Walmart. The vast majority of their employees already know they have a good deal.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I bet McMillon and Bezos follow each other regularly.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Sure they have a long way to go, but it’d be a mistake to count them out."
"Jeff Bezos has read the tea leaves and, as usual, made the right call. Threats of unionization will continue unless conditions change for warehouse employees."
"Actions speak louder than words. As a final legacy message, these are nice words. Let’s see what has or has not changed in two years."

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you agree or disagree with the philosophy that putting the employee first ensures that they will put the customer first?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...