Let’s Hear it for the Employees! (Amazon, please hit “Unmute”…)

Amazon’s fantastic success has come at a fantastic cost – to their employees.  In a nod to the industrial era of the 1910s, it seems Taylorism and Scientific Management are alive and well in the warehouses of Earth’s second largest retailer.

A sobering investigation by the New York Times exposes some of the concerning human resources practices in place at the company’s robotics-driven warehouses.  (If you don’t have an NYT account, marketplace.org also references the report.)

But…are satisfied employees actually worth it?  We think so, but business leaders often struggle to balance the realities of productivity with employee satisfaction.  And it’s hard to argue with Amazon’s financial success: in 2020 Amazon’s net profit jumped 84% compared to the year before – with employee turnover approaching 150% a year.

While productivity and high turnover have help fueled the company’s success, in the long run dissatisfied employees can be bad for business.  Amazon’s continuing expansion plans could falter if the potential post-pandemic reopening leaves employees with better, and more stable, employment options.  Perhaps signaling a change, in Amazon’s 2020 Letter to Shareholders Jeff Bezos stated, “We are going to be Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”

We’ll see.  But if the whole employee thing doesn’t work out for Amazon, perhaps Tesla’s humanoid robots could replace all those bothersome human workers…

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