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Recently, The New York Times published an article entitled “Inside Amazon:  Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace.”  In case you live atop a mountain without Internet or television and have missed the media frenzy, the piece is a scathing exposé on Amazon.com’s demanding and often brutally efficient workplace policies.   As we discussed in the last article, the concept of “employer branding” is a crucial part of business.   But what happens when the most vital part of a company’s success creates a negative employer brand?   And will the industry run toward or away from Amazon’s business model?  More importantly, what does this culture of high-turnover employment mean for job seekers and employers alike?

If you do live atop a mountain, you would probably benefit greatly by Amazon as a company.  In the last five years, Amazon’s popularity as a “get anything you want in two days or less” delivery service has skyrocketed.  Last year it surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer.

But, like Walmart, the amazingness for consumers comes at a price for the people who create it.  Amazon is able to deliver what it promises through cutthroat workplace policies. From punishing workers for illness to demanding that upper level managers work 100 hours a week, Amazon snubs the concept of worker retention for a process it considers “panning for gold.”  That is to say, it continuously weeds out employees that it doesn’t consider to be “rock stars” rather than cultivating longevity or loyalty.   This employment model deliberately guts the retention aspect of the employer brand.

But what about employer presentation?  This policy has indeed been detrimental to Amazon’s image as an employer to some degree considering that currently, in its recruitment markets, Amazon has over 4,500 open positions.  Its new employee orientation process is ongoing every day.   However, with this media buzz, their employer brand is even more negative.

In Amazon’s case, there is a unique third aspect of their brand and that is the image that exiting employees carry to recruitment and staffing agencies.  When a resume includes the company as the most recent employer, the new employer can safely assume that the candidate has a negative attitude one way or another toward work.  Undoubtedly, this negativity throws a wrench into higher level recruitment such as passive candidate recruiting and talent mapping.  When qualified people have been damaged by the work culture of an employer, the candidate pool suffers.

Is this model the future of work?   One term that comes up in discussion is “Orwellian.”  In his books, most notably 1984, George Orwell wrote of a future where people were hyper-managed with every aspect of their lives controlled and managed by “Big Brother.”  With the implication of software that monitors and analyzes the metrics of productivity of each employee from box packers to executives, Amazon is indeed fulfilling Orwell’s vision.   But does the positivity of its consumer culture balance out Amazon’s Orwellian practices?

Today, after a week of media attention, Amazon’s employer brand is about as negative as it can get.   Job seekers in and around Seattle, the company’s headquarter city, most likely know its reputation.  But as Amazon expands to other job markets, it carries the black mark that the media has put in the spotlight.  Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Amazon is going to likely see a decline in the flow of qualified workers.

But what if it doesn’t?

Whether this model succeeds or fails is the crossroads for staffers and recruiters.  Meanwhile, other giants such as Netflix are experimenting with family friendly policies such as paid maternity (or paternity) leave.   The road has diverged in the yellow wood, so to speak. In the coming decade, a new norm will emerge.   Will productivity trump humanity?  Only time will tell.

About ARC Group© 

American Recruiting & Consulting Group, a national executive recruitment agency was established in 1982 and has been consistently ranked in multiple issues of The Business Journals’ “Top 25 Executive Search and Consulting Firms” for the last 14 years. With over a hundred employees and a score of locations throughout the country, we have asserted ourselves as a leader in the recruitment, staffing, employment and consulting sectors. 

At ARC Group, we focus on helping our clients grow by offering a unique blend of staffing, employment and temp services in the talent acquisition space. Our services include helping clients find the best talent for contract, temp to perm, and permanent placement opportunities. We also offer a unique and trademarked research recruitment solution, Recruitment Intelligence™, as well as retained, contingency and consulting services. 

With our proven 7 stage end-to-end recruitment process we provide unsurpassed quality that most employment and temp staffing agencies are unable to offer.