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

September 17, 2018
You may have heard that Amazon is looking to build an army of delivery people. Through Amazon's own delivery system, Flex, as well as private couriers, the online retail Goliath is pushing the limits of purchased packages delivered within two days. Technically not considered employees of Amazon, some people are even opening their own businesses for as little as $10,000 to handle Amazon's deliveries, buying trucks and warehouse space to handle the increasing volume.

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

Dream Job

Touted as a dream job to work for Amazon, job seekers flock to any opening with the online seller's name attached to it. Unfortunately, many landing a job with Amazon don't remain long after they discover the demanding work and tight schedules required to keep pace with their job descriptions.

The history of Amazon's treatment of its workforce doesn't bode well for the future of delivery services' attempt to attract hourly workers or independent contractors. Founded in 1994 as a bookseller by Jeff Bezos, Amazon, is often talked about within the same conversations as Google, Apple and Facebook. Yet, surprisingly, the median annual salary for Amazon's workers is $28,446, more than a tad shy of Facebook's $240,430 median annual compensation, but more in line with Home Depot, Lowes, and The Hobby Lobby — retail outlets typically staffed with workers paid slightly higher than minimum wage.

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 the 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 emerge of what to do, and not do, to keep good hourly employees.
Jeff Bezos is truly obsessed with the customer leaving little room for focus on the 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, employees turnover is high, (1.84 years), 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 denied 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 obsessed with the customer leaving little room for focus on the employees. Contrast this business mission with 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."

Through all the researched surveys, (70 to 80 total), it became obvious that Amazon does indeed put the customer first, and way above its employees. But in fairness to Amazon, Glassdoor revealed that most Amazon warehouse employees are paid $11 an hour and above, higher than minimum wage. However, many employees have complained that the work is strenuous and even "unrealistic."

2. Qualify, Orientate, 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 on customer service or 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 a well-documented article titled, "A Day in the Life of an Amazon Delivery Worker," talks about how drivers urinate in bottles while driving and often times working 10 and 12-hour days just to keep up with deliveries. With very little or no training given, drivers for Flex and other Amazon services are simply winging it trying to figure out for themselves how to stay ahead of the work load.
Simply stating that employees are the company's greatest asset is only fluff if it isn't followed up with hard, at the floor-level evidence.
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. One case in point, workers at a warehouse in Eagan, East Africa, complained that the stifling heat in the warehouse, that has no air conditioning, was causing workers to become faint and not able to continue with the 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 simply stating that employees are the company's greatest asset is only fluff if it isn't followed up with hard, at the floor-level evidence. 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 put in the necessary time to qualify, orientate, and train new employees and allow 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.
Get our updates
Be the first to read our stories and updates. No spam ever.
Hire better people faster
Try Workstream and start our trial.