HR at Amazon: A Human-Free Resource Department

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Does Amazon have a good Human Resources (HR) department? What is HR at Amazon like? How did Jeff Bezos try to change HR?

While at Amazon, Jess Bezos sought to automate the Human Resources department as much as possible. Hiring-by-app and firing-by-algorithm proved useful when adding workers during peak times, but it resulted in an alienated workforce.

Read on to learn about HR at Amazon, including why and how Bezos automated the department.

Jeff Bezos’ New Kind of HR at Amazon

As CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos experimented with employee relations in two ways: First, he made management of Human Resources (HR) as human-free as possible, and second, he encouraged high turnover so his workforce was always fresh. The results, outlined in a New York Times report last year, were mixed. However, by most accounts, HR at Amazon went too far toward automation at the expense of worker relations.

Why Automate HR?

Bezos pushed to remove humans from the hiring process as much as possible, believing that hiring can best be done through automated, often online, screening. Hiring-by-app allows for HR at Amazon to bulk up its workforce quickly during peak times, but it also makes workers feel disconnected, so that many prove unreliable and transitory—they end up not showing up, quitting after a few days, or being fired for not doing their job. 

Bezos also replaced much routine HR work at Amazon with an app called A to Z, handling everything from payroll to schedule changes. While many users rate the app highly, citing its ease of use and convenience, it sometimes makes mistakes that workers find next to impossible to get corrected. 

Problems With Human-Free HR

Some of these uncorrected mistakes result in terminations—a fairly common experience at Amazon. Terminations are often decided by algorithm without notice and without recourse. One delivery worker of four years was sacked by automated email for problems beyond his control (like locked apartment complexes) that the automated HR system at Amazon attributed to worker error. At other times, glitches in the system resulted in flurries of erroneous terminations to workers who’d, for example, sent in applications for time off. 

Rectifying such mistakes often proves so difficult that many people end up simply accepting the termination.

HR at Amazon Post-Bezos

Overall, the New York Times report paints a picture of a company somewhat overwhelmed by the logistics of managing a large workforce—trying to institute efficiencies that, in failing to account for the human element of employee relations, don’t work in practical terms. Even Bezos has admitted the company went too far with HR at Amazon, noting it needs “a better vision for how we create value for employees.” 

Whether the company, under new management since Bezos’s departure as CEO, will walk back some automation or will double down on it remains to be seen.

HR at Amazon: A Human-Free Resource Department

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Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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