- Insider continues to investigate Amazon’s workplace.
- The e-commerce and cloud giant has a complex performance review system that some employees find unfair.
- Injury rates at Amazon’s warehouses are also above industry averages, Insider previously reported.
Amazon is the second largest employer in the United States and still one of the largest in the country. It offers income and benefits to over 1 million people and has been a source of business and convenience for shopping during the pandemic.
With that level of influence, Amazon’s operations have come under close scrutiny, which has led to a nationwide unionization effort. The effort to unionize was successful in a Staten Island warehouse as other warehouses across the country continue to organize. The following covers everything you need to know about what it’s like to work in the company.
How Amazon breaks down its workforce
Insider is investigating Amazon’s system to improve or oust employees deemed less performing. Once managers label workers as having difficulties, they are placed into a “Focus” coaching plan. If they fail there, the workers are moved to another program called “Pivot” and then finally to an internal corporate jury who decides their fate within the company.
The system has been criticized by some current and former employees, who claim it is unfairly hoarded against them and may encourage managers to give bad reviews to good staff. Amazon claims to provide managers with tools to help employees improve and advance their careers. “This includes resources for employees who do not meet expectations and may require additional coaching. If an employee feels they are not receiving a fair performance appraisal, they have multiple channels in which they can increase it,” a company spokesperson said.
Amazon has a goal of getting rid of a certain number of employees each year, which is called attrition not regrets. Some managers of the company told Insider that they have felt so much pressure to reach the goal that they are hiring people they intend to fire within a year.
The company faced severe attrition, with former employees citing Amazon’s cutthroat culture and relatively low pay. Last year, 50 vice presidents left the company and some divisions reported a whopping 35% turnover rate. Amazon responded by increasing employee base pay and stock grants.
The company was hit with allegations of bias
There has been a spate of lawsuits filed against Amazon over alleged racial and gender bias. Last May, five current and former female employees sued the company, claiming “abusive treatment by mainly white male executives.”
Charlotte Newman, a Black Amazon manager, also filed a lawsuit last year over alleged gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Another high-profile female engineer asked the company to fix what she saw as a “culture of harassment,” Insider reported.
“We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement at the time. “We immediately investigated Ms. Newman’s sexual harassment report and fired her abuser.”
The investigation led to “corrective actions and additional training requirements for those in its reporting line,” the spokesperson added. “We also reviewed Ms. Newman’s interview process, leveling and onboarding and determined that she was properly placed in her role at the company. We are currently investigating the new allegations included in the lawsuit.”
Amazon warehouses churn out workers
The company’s logistics centers employ hundreds of thousands of people, offering competitive wages and advantages over others
jobs. But the work can be exhausting, some staff don’t stay long, and there are growing efforts to unionize this modern blue-collar workforce.
Amazon warehouses are partly automated, using robots that zip around the shop to pick up pallets of merchandise and deliver them to employees who pick up the correct items and pack them for shipping. The company hires thousands of extra temporary workers each year to support an increase in orders during the holiday shopping season.
During the pandemic, a surge in online orders sparked a hiring rush but caused tensions with workers worried about entry into warehouses. Cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed in warehouses, according to The Markup, and workers at logistics centers in New York and Alabama have responded by organizing unions.
The first successful campaign was in a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, where Amazon workers voted to form a union in April. The work organization milestone has been a major blow to Amazon’s efforts to keep unions out of its facilities and is likely to propel a cascade of organization into other Amazon warehouses and retailers. However, a union vote in another Staten Island warehouse, also organized by the Amazon Labor Union, was defeated on Monday.
Amazon’s delivery network is based on thousands of drivers
The company works with UPS, FedEx and the United States Postal Service, but also operates a huge fleet of internal delivery vehicles. These vans are driven by a combination of employees, third party courier services, and contract workers.
Amazon is known for imposing strict time limits on drivers and for keeping track of how many times they stop and how fast they drive. While the company does account for break times – one 30-minute lunch and two 15-minute breaks – some drivers say they can’t or don’t want to take them.
Last year, Amazon denied workers had to pee in bottles after lawmakers scolded the company for it. But multiple drivers confirmed it was part of the job. Amazon later apologized and said drivers have a hard time finding restrooms due to traffic and being on rural roads, adding that the problem was exacerbated by the closure of public restrooms during the pandemic.
How to find work on Amazon
Amazon remains a fast growing major employer. Unlike some of its Big Tech rivals, the company offers a range of positions, from highly technical roles to blue collar jobs. His recruiting methods range from huge job fairs to tough one-on-one interviews.
The company ranks among the top employers among technical students. In a poll released in 2020, Amazon came 10th in a survey of engineering students, beating Intel and IBM but behind Tesla and SpaceX.
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