Jeff Bezos wants Amazon to be as obsessed with its employees as it is with customers.
In his final letter to shareholders, the outgoing chief executive reflected on the recent failed unionization drive at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, and said the company needs to do a better job for its 1.3 million employees. (Bezos will pass the reins to Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, in the third quarter and take on the role of executive chairman.)
“While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success,” Bezos wrote in the letter.
Bezos rejected news reports in which Amazon employees are sometimes accused of being desperate souls and treated as robots.
“That’s not accurate,” he said. “They’re sophisticated and thoughtful people who have options for where to work. When we survey fulfillment center employees, 94% say they would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work.”
Bezos noted that Amazon has always wanted to be earth’s most customer-centric company.
“We won’t change that,” he said. “It’s what got us here. But I am committing us to an addition. We are going to be Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”
In his upcoming role as executive chair, Bezos said he plans to focus on new initiatives.
“I’m an inventor,” he said. “It’s what I enjoy the most and what I do best. It’s where I create the most value. I’m excited to work alongside the large team of passionate people we have in Ops and help invent in this arena of Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”
On the safety front, roughly 40% of work-related injuries are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as sprains or strains that can be caused by repetitive motions, according to Bezos.
“MSDs are common in the type of work that we do and are more likely to occur during an employee’s first six months,” he said. “We need to invent solutions to reduce MSDs for new employees, many of whom might be working in a physical role for the first time.”
Bezos said Amazon is developing new automated staffing schedules that use sophisticated algorithms to rotate employees among jobs that use different muscle-tendon groups to decrease repetitive motion and help protect employees from MSD risks.
Bezos concluded the letter with a call out to shareholders who might be concerned that Amazon’s focus on being the earth’s best employer and safest place to work might dilute its focus on being the earth’s most customer-centric company.
“… let me set your mind at ease,” he wrote. “Think of it this way. If we can operate two businesses as different as consumer e-commerce and AWS, and do both at the highest level, we can certainly do the same with these two vision statements. In fact, I’m confident they will reinforce each other.”