Amazon’s HR approach ‘purposeful Darwinism’, insiders claim

According to recent reports, the global corporation demands a lot from its workers, who are expected to meet ‘unreasonably high’ expectations

Staying competitive in the increasingly busy online retail sector means demanding a lot from employees and an insight into Amazon’s Seattle headquarters shows how innovation is driving the company forward.

An article in the New York Times reveals how new starters are told to leave old habits from previous employers behind and when the pressure of the fast pace of work means that they ‘hit the wall’ they are told to climb it.

Amazon has 14 leadership principles, clearly set out on its website and provided to employees on laminated cards. These principles include being “obsessed” with customer satisfaction; always seek new ideas and to simplify; “raise the bar with every hire and promotion”; insist on high standards; and deliver results.

Workers are expected to work hard and long hours and meet “unreasonably high” standards which, the New York Times says, means many fall by the wayside and there is criticism of the employer’s “purposeful Darwinism” from one of the company’s former HR directors.

Amazon, while not agreeing that it treats workers unfairly, certainly demands a lot from its people. Although in line with many innovative tech firms it offers a workplace that has many perks including dog-friendly offices and a workplace farmers’ market; the article says that it does not pretend to make workers’ needs a priority. However hard work is rewarded with competitive remuneration.

This does not mean that employees are meant to be subservient. To the contrary one of Amazon’s principles is to “have backbone” and not be afraid to challenge and debate. Tony Galbato, the company’s vice-president for human resources commented: “It would certainly be much easier and socially cohesive to just compromise and not debate, but that may lead to the wrong decision.”

While lots of stories bring stories of innovation and amazing staff benefits the NYT article shows that other approaches can bring results for the business but will attract (and retain) employees that are highly motivated to do well and earn well, while being open to demands that others may find challenging.

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