How does Amazon want to establish itself as a responsible employer

Last year again, did not fail. After the curtain was lifted on Black Friday, which heated up credit cards around the world, the Christmas holiday has caused an e-commerce boom. For Amazon France, this means hiring more than 12,000 temporary workers, roughly 14,000 permanent employees. A big business operation, therefore, but also one of the most prominent social policies of the company: Many of these temporary appointments can be converted into permanent contracts.

This was for example the case for Frederic, who was incorporated into the Boves (Somme) unit in 2018. Flip between social plans and individual careers, at the age of 50 he admitted to entering Amazon “backward”. However, it quickly becomes a staple in the supply chain, by interfering everywhere there is flow: a poorly closed box, a barcode error, poor storage…

Meet delivery deadlines: With security, this is where all the attention of the employees, who unload, sort, pack and finally deliver, are focused under the control of a powerful system of algorithms. In Bove, Frederic found these long-loved forklifts and his talented colleagues, “pickers” of goods secured several meters above the ground. But, here, the traditional postcard of the industry has been replenished and corrected. We speak English, women hold one job out of two, and Frederick assures that working conditions are far better than anything he knows.

Frederick, proud to be an Amazonian. Vincent Try for Management

Routine is combated by frequent changes in tasks, avoiding the harmful effects of the automatic gesture. Best, Frederic, who is battling a genetic disease that affects the joints, claims to have found attentive ears on the topic of disability at work. The topic is taken up regularly through videos presented in the comfort zones. At the Brétigny-sur-Orge warehouse, in Essonne, Sohaila Boudou, a young logistics engineer, points out: “Disability is a magnifying mirror of management issues.” Moreover, “Jeff” as we call it here Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of the group, has he not committed to making Amazon the “best employer in the world”?

However, this enthusiasm is not unanimous. In 2018, the Montelimar Unit CHSCT denounced the deteriorating health of staff. And online, some of the comments from former employees are far from kind about working conditions. In order to “reclaim the truth” and explain “why everything is progressing so quickly here,” Amazon has published a visit program in 46 of its warehouses around the world. But it is not easy to convince the “heat-resistant” Frenchman, even if the “helpers” (in Amazon, everyone owns shares) show a “high satisfaction” rate of 85%.

While Amazon alternates day and night, including weekends, to ensure continuous service, legal teams are subject to labor laws, always looking for the best compromise between profitability and local regulations. Amazon uses a program called TOT, “Task off time”, to track the products’ journey and, over time, calculate how long a trigger remains inactive…

It’s, as the first part of the house mantra insists, here, you have to work hard (“work hard”). Ultimately, that promise is as old as the industry: social integration. In fact, the group highlights its continued interest in investing in disaster areas, to employ the most dangerous, sometimes close to illiteracy people. In the warehouses, in parallel with the algorithms that determine the work of the operators, the graphic communication publishes the basics of what to understand: safety instructions, the specific color of the jacket for each case, the degree (“coach”, “manager”, “assistant”) and house pins, associated with festive events or dates The main in the individual career … a subtle language that Amazon uses every day, which corresponds to a very comprehensive vision of employment, beyond diploma, gender or idiosyncrasies of each one.

Real-time digital monitoring of all operations takes on the appearance of a control tower. Vincent Try for Management

For example, Sylvie Lou felt stuck working in the field of statistical analysis in Toulouse. Her trade with BTS gave her the desire, but not the means… She decided to take an apprenticeship in web development. Without knowing anything about logistics, she was able to join Amazon Warehouse to fund her relocation: “I failed the test, but I was still able to prove that I had a logical mind and this culture that makes me very happy here: a taste of entrepreneurship, problem solving, suggesting improvements …”

Happy to have joined the last ‘A’ of Gafa, and soon joined the club of these ‘house leaders’, who are able to light up the work atmosphere and strengthen the small teams formed by the Managers over the course of activities, tying atoms and performing each. Having recently become an IT Assistant, Sylvie Lou takes a new step in her retraining, approaching the intranets of the “technologists” she meets daily on the “floor” (warehouse workspace). She smiles, and now she considers that she has significantly expanded her career horizons.

The same enthusiasm from fellow colleague Elise Buriot, recruited in 2007, at a time when it was still necessary to spell the name Amazon for booksellers when they were offered market consolidation. The young woman who was asked by her business school friends why she chose this strange fund…

After going through all the sales and marketing jobs, she is now a sponsor of a program called “Engineer of the Future”, which develops a taste for algorithms among children, especially girls. She says Amazon is “a process: an efficient system, committed employees, and exemplary growth.” From now on, her friends listen intently to her when she talks to them about it…

Efficiency, Stefan Tilley is pleased with it every day. This 47-year-old engineer, who came from the auto industry, now runs the Brétigny-sur-Orge warehouse, which delivers up to 600,000 packages per day during peak activity. His pride? Make 5,000 people and 3,000 robots walk the warehouse aisles and prepare goods work with good intelligence. With operators suffering less upon access and nearly 50% of storage space gained.

Amazon headquarters, in Clichy, near Paris. Vincent Try for Management

In the brand’s new offices at Amazon’s headquarters in Clichy, near Paris, the same management principles govern internal progress and development. At 36, Edward van Winsberge is almost a veteran within the company: he joined the Parisian teams right after completing business school in 2008. Product and data manager, recently joined the group advertising, which is perhaps the most profitable service at the moment.

Happy to sell advertising space around the Ligue 1 soccer tournament, but he wasn’t particularly prepared for this management job. It will last for about three months. “I had good support, and she trained alongside me on topics that seemed important to me,” he says. In fact, approximately one out of two positions is filled internally, which contributes to the company’s attractiveness.

To move forward, not to stagnate, to be recognized by hierarchy: Amazon has upheld these values ​​since its inception in 1995. “Every meeting begins around a document written by the person who advocates for a project,” identifies Elise Puriot. This highly constructive work allows everyone to be on the same level and to make the discussion substantive. Who knows, maybe it was during such a meeting that the idea of ​​assimilating the company’s IT platform was brought up.

Developers have complained about slow updates, costs involved, and quality risks. Gradually, the project to take over the service in-house, and better yet, sell this enormous knowledge to others… If you know how to control and store goods, you can also manage the industrial cloud, right? It was 2006 and this development led to the creation of Amazon Web Services (AWS), which today will generate approximately 10% of the group’s sales, ensuring it is one of its main sources of profit. So anything is possible … All you have to do is absorb all the terms of the principle displayed on the warehouse walls: “Work hard, have fun, and make history.”

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