Amazon routinely tries to funnel 6% of its office workers out of the company each year, using processes built into proprietary software to help achieve a revenue target among lower-ranking office workers, a metric that Amazon calls “unrepentant attrition,” according to internal company documents seen by the Seattle Times.
The documents highlight how Amazon’s processes closely resemble the controversial management practice of stacking – in which employees are rated against each other rather than based on a job description or job description. performance targets – despite Amazon’s insistence not to commit to stack rankings. The documents also highlight how Amazon’s HR processes are dependent on applications and algorithms, even among the company’s office workers.
And they provide the most detailed picture yet of how Amazon is using performance improvement plans to evacuate lower-ranked employees from the business. The company expects more than a third of employees’ performance improvement plans to fail, according to documents. Amazon previously said its performance improvement plans were not meant to punish employees.
The policies outlined in documents reviewed by the Seattle Times apply to the company’s office staff, who represent a minority of Amazon’s approximately 950,000 US employees. Amazon warehouses replace workers much more frequently, The New York Times reported: Before the pandemic, annual turnover rates in Amazon warehouses were as high as 150%.
Amazon said some of the documentation reviewed by the Seattle Times was not created by the company’s central human resources team and contained outdated terminology. But he did not dispute that the documents describe Amazon’s internal policies.
An Amazon spokesperson also said that qualifying its performance management system as stack ranking was inaccurate.
“We do not, and we never have, categorized our employees. This is not a practice used by Amazon,” spokeswoman Jaci Anderson said in an email. She said the goal of the company’s performance review process is to “give employees more insight and information to continue advancing their careers at Amazon.”
Experts familiar with Amazon’s processes disagreed with the company’s position that it doesn’t overlap employees. A previous Business Insider report also found that Amazon ranks employees on a curve.
Amazon’s performance rating system “strengthens [the company] to find people’s flaws rather than looking at their strengths, ”said Chris Bloomquist, longtime tech industry recruiter and co-founder of The Talent Mine in Seattle. “If I have 10 brilliant people, but can the less brilliant person be fired?” It’s stupid. “
The company’s insistence that it does not practice stacking is “a bold lie,” Bloomquist said.
Many companies have abandoned stacking in recent years after employee backlash. Critics of the system argue that it contributes to wage and promotional discrimination, generates a toxic work culture and undermines innovation. Microsoft abandoned this practice in 2013. GE, whose former CEO Jack Welch is known as the creator of the stacking system, abandoned it in the early 2000s.
An Amazon Web Services director, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the company had resumed tracking the number of lower-ranking employees who had left the company. ‘company in part to encourage managers to spend time solving problems of underperformance among their subordinates.
Some experts say Amazon’s workforce management tools are a throwback to outdated human resource philosophies.
“This is the old stack classification with a new automated twist,” said Anna Tavis, professor of human capital management at New York University, responding to a description of the contents of the documents. “They automate the most important management function: employee development and coaching, helping people improve and perform.”
Amazon recommends that managers of teams of more than 50 people distribute performance scores on a curve, with 20% of employees classified as “higher level” and the bottom 5% classified as “less efficient,” according to slide images. presentation for a training given to managers seen by the Seattle Times. The presentation is undated but appears to be from late 2020 or early this year, based on slides outlining the 2021 performance review schedule.
Thanks to the company’s internal staff dashboard, called Ivy, Amazon’s human resources department asks managers to “initiate documented coaching” with lower-ranking employees or to see the issue raised with them. boss, depending on the presentation.
Ivy is “the most trafficked site” within the company, with 3 million visits per day, according to a recent job posting on Amazon. Ivy was launched about 18 months ago, according to Anderson, but its existence has not been reported before.
The presentation cautions managers to “avoid unnatural acts that would compromise the fairness or credibility” of the performance appraisal system, such as “adjusting performance or potential ratings to change [a higher-ranked] used at least effective just to meet a recommended distribution. “
The manager should also “avoid comparisons with other employees (eg, ‘stack ranking’),” the presentation advises. Anderson also said that the direction of the company is that managers evaluate employees against the performance standard.