Inside Amazon’s worst human resources problem
In internal correspondence, company administrators warned of “inadequate service levels,” “short processes” and the systems “prone to delay and error.”
The extent of the problem is greatly relieved by how Amazon employees regularly took a back seat to customers during the company’s meteoric rise to retail dominance. Amazon built state-of-the-art package processing facilities to satisfy buyers’ appetite for fast delivery, which are far ahead of competitors. But according to many longtime employees, the business didn’t put enough resources and attention into how it serves employees.
“At times, because we’ve optimized for the customer experience, we’re focused on that,” Bethany Reyes, who was recently put in charge of fine-tuning the vacation system, said in an interview. She stressed that the company is working hard to rebalance those priorities.
The company’s dealings with its vast workforce – now more than 1.3 million people and rapidly expanding – are facing increasing scrutiny. Labor activists and some lawmakers say the company does not adequately protect the safety of warehouse workers, and that it unfairly punishes internal critics. This year, workers in Alabama, troubled by the company’s minute-by-minute monitoring of their productivity, posed a serious, though ultimately unsuccessful, threat of unionization against the company.
In June, a Times investigation detailed how badly the leave process jammed during the pandemic, finding that it was one of several employment defaults during the company’s biggest moment of financial success. Since then, Amazon has kept to its pledge to be “earth’s best employer.” Andy Jesse, who replaced Mr Bezos as chief executive in July, recently chose the vacation system as a place where it can demonstrate its commitment to reform. “The process didn’t work out the way we wanted it to work,” he said at an event this month.
In response to recent findings about problems faced by its holiday program, Amazon detailed its efforts to fix the system’s “pain points” and “payment issues”, as Ms. Reyes interviewed. Said. She called the wrongful termination “the most serious issue you could have”. The company is hiring hundreds of employees, streamlining and connecting systems, clarifying its communications and training human resources staff members to be more empathetic.
But many issues remain, leading to breakdowns that have proved disastrous. This spring, a Tennessee warehouse worker suddenly stopped receiving disability payments, leaving her family struggling to pay for food, transportation, or medical care.
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