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    Retail | 4 min read

    Amazon Struggles with Employee Engagement: 3 Key Points Every Business Should Know

    One of the Big Four tech companies alongside Apple, Google, and Microsoft, Amazon has become a household name. With their exponential growth comes an ever-increasing demand for more employees - particularly to ramp up their delivery system.  Through their own delivery network, Amazon Flex, as well as private couriers, the online retail giant shipped an estimated 3.5 billion packages globally in 2019. To help fulfill the staggering shipping needs, some people are even opening their own businesses for as little as $10,000 to become delivery service partners, buying trucks and warehouse space to help handle the volume.

    Amazon is fuelling the drive for these enterprises by sharing statistics of how a delivery service partner can make up to $300,000 per year if they have access to about 40 vehicles to transport packages. But what is the price of success in this high-pressure world of deliveries? What will the strain on employees be to reach the mark? 

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    Dream Job 

    It is considered to be a dream job to work for Amazon, and job seekers actively pursue to any opening with the online seller's name attached to it. Unfortunately, many landing a job with Amazon are unable to keep up the pace after they discover the demanding workload and tight schedules necessary in many roles. 

    With over 90,000 warehouse employees and thousands more in contracted warehouses and serving as delivery drivers, Amazon is not going to please everyone, but it wouldn't hurt to at least try. Based on feedback from Amazon's current and previous employees on online surveys from respected sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, CareerBliss, and Great Place to Work, three key points have emerged regarding what to do, and not do, in order to improve retention of good hourly employees. 

    1. More Than an Asset 

    Employees of Amazon have complained for years about the long hours, short breaks, and little response given to their concerns. With pressing rules such as, "A new package must be sealed and ready to go every 30 seconds," and scheduled, monitored bathroom breaks, employee turnover is high at Amazon. One worker from Seattle said she had fractures to her feet from the endless miles walked on the concrete floor of the warehouse. Amazon denied the injuries were work-related and disputed her claim. Another employee said that Amazon would force employees to work a fifth day during the week calling it "mandatory overtime," and that if the employee didn't take the shift, 10 hours can be cut from their vacation time to make up for it. 

    Because Jeff Bezos' commitment to what he calls, "True Customer Obsession," the focus is always on the customer at all costs. While his slogan sounds like a great intro to a commercial, he is truly dedicated to the customer, leaving little room for focus on the employees. Contrast this business mission with that of Southwest Airlines, "Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.

    Based on data from different surveys, it became obvious that Amazon does indeed put the customer first, and way above its employees. To be fair to Amazon,  they rolled out a new $15 minimum wage in late 2019. However, some employees have complained that the work is strenuous and even "unrealistic." 

    2. Qualify, Orient, and Train 

    One of the major themes of complaints from Amazon employees is that they are not trained sufficiently and after getting hired, are simply thrown into the work. In one package delivery driver's review, he said that he was given a route and told what packages to load based on the app on his phone. Then, "Drive like crazy to make all the deliveries on time." There is no training in customer service on how to handle a complaint or question. "On the whole, people are pleased to see you so the customer satisfaction rubs off on you a little. But there is no time for chatting though so the interaction with customers is minimal." 

    Another driver, through an article titled, "A Day in the Life of an Amazon Delivery Worker," talks about how drivers urinate in bottles while driving and oftentimes work 10 and 12-hour days just to keep up with deliveries. With little to no training given, drivers for Flex and other Amazon services are simply winging it, trying to figure out how to stay ahead of the work load by themselves. 

    3. Listen to Feedback 

    Because Amazon is a world-wide conglomerate, controlling working conditions at every location can be a challenge, but it becomes easier if the company takes the time to listen to employees. Case in point, workers at a warehouse in Eagan, East Africa, complained that the stifling heat in the warehouse, which had no air conditioning, was causing workers to feel faint and unable to work. Others complained that Amazon reduced many two-person jobs to just one person, making it difficult to meet demands. 

    In other facilities, workers must walk a good distance to the break room or restroom, causing them to have little time left in their 15-minute break. These complaints, and many like them, are common in Amazon and many employees feel like they are falling on deaf ears. 

    Lessons Learned 

    Business owners and leaders can learn a thing or two from the pages of Amazon's growth pains. The first is to remember that stating that employees are the company's greatest asset needs to be followed up with discernible action at the floor-level. Employees want to be treated with respect and dignity, and know that they are valued. The second lesson is that as a business grows, it must invest in qualifying and training new employees, giving them time to assimilate into their positions as well as the company culture. 

    Finally, employees not only want to be heard, but they want to know that their feedback is valuable. Mastering these three will put businesses that rely on hourly employees ahead of the competition. 

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