Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Herd at Amazon

It's shrinking:

"‘Callous’ treatment of staff unacceptable, Amazon says" by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld New York Times   August 18, 2015

Amazon said late Sunday it would not tolerate the “shockingly callous management practices” described in an article in The New York Times over the weekend. Jeff Bezos, the retail giant’s founder and chief executive, said he did not recognize the workplace portrayed in the article and urged any employees who knew of “stories like those reported” to contact him directly.

“Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero,” Bezos said in an e-mail circulated to all the retailer’s employees.

The article, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” gave accounts of workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages, and other personal crises who said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover in Amazon’s intense and fast-paced workplace.

Bezos wrote that he “very much” hoped workers did not recognize the workplace depicted in the article — “a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard.”

Must be all the robots.

At Amazon, the article said, the winners get the thrill of testing new projects with hundreds of millions of customers. They also become rich through a stock that has increased tenfold since 2008. But the losers are pushed out in regular cullings. One former Amazon human resources director called it “purposeful Darwinism.”

That is where you start getting into the global depopulation endgame stuff. 

Amazon declined a request to interview Bezos for the original article but made several executives available. Overall, the Times interviewed more than 100 current and former Amazon employees, including many who spoke on the record and some who requested anonymity because they had signed agreements saying they would not speak to the media.

Bezos urged his 180,000 employees to give the Times article “a careful read” but said it “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.”

Amazon and Bezos have also circulated an account on LinkedIn by Nick Ciubotariu, an Amazon engineer and manager, describing his 18 months of experience at the company.

Like many of the Amazon employees quoted in the Times article, Ciubotariu describes strengths of the workplace, including focus on customers and innovation. However, some of his assertions were incorrect, including a statement that the company does not cull employees on an annual basis. An Amazon spokesman previously confirmed that the company seeks to manage out a certain percentage of its workforce every year; the size of the goal varies from year to year. The engineer also quotes an unnamed senior executive telling an all-hands meeting, “Amazon used to burn a lot of people into the ground.”


They have branded you, too:

"Amazon’s data-driven approach to the workplace becoming more common" by Mae Anderson Associated Press  August 17, 2015

NEW YORK — Amazon isn’t the only company that is using data on employees to improve productivity.

A New York Times article over the weekend portrayed Amazon’s work culture as “bruising” and “Darwinian” in part because of the way it uses data to manage its staff. The article depicted a work culture where staffers are under constant pressure to deliver strong results on a wide variety of detailed metrics the company monitors in real time — such as what gets abandoned in people’s shopping carts and what videos people stream — and encouraged to report praise or criticism about colleagues to management to add to more data about workers’ performance. The story led to an outcry on social media.

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said in a memo to staff over the weekend that the article doesn’t accurately describe the company culture he knows, and he decried the type of “callous management” practice detailed in the story. But observers say the kind of data-driven staff management Amazon uses is set to become more common as technology continues to transform the American workplace.

I can see Bezos on a future episode of "Undercover Boss."

“Every company is somewhere in process toward using data to get a better handle on who their top performers are and to understand where people stand,” said John Challenger, chief executive of outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Companies large and small have been moving away from traditional human resources reviews that rely on annual evaluations. They’re moving toward a more data-driven approach with more frequent feedback, check-ins, and other metrics.

Consulting firms Accenture and Deloitte said this year they would revamp their performance review processes, for example, adopting a more data-driven approach that includes more frequent ratings by managers and other internal feedback and data that can be aggregated and analyzed to provide a better portrait of performance than a single rating. In an essay in the Harvard Business Review, Deloitte said the new approach uses “the technology to go from a small data version of our people to a big data version of them.”

Yeah, having Deloitte in charge is really making me feel good after all the $hitty software programs over here, and I can't Accenture this enough: 

Defense Intelligence Agency Solutions for Intelligence Financial Management 

Amazing how the war machine gets money from so many places, 'eh?

Tech companies have been even speedier in applying data analytics to staffing. Google, for example, uses data to figure out how to put together optimal-sized teams for projects and figure out what makes effective leaders.

Hamerman says the future might look more like what Glint Inc., based in Redwood City, Calif., offers clients. The company, with clients including music-streaming site Pandora and marketing automation company Marketo, sends employees short surveys about how they feel about their job.

Don't open it.

Glint chief executive Jim Barnett said the surveys let executives see how the health of their employees and company are faring in real time because the ‘‘pulses’’ to company employees recur more frequently than traditional reviews. And their data can be aggregated to give a clearer picture of how employees are faring overall.

Can you feel the boss's breath on your shoulder?

“The old mentality was once a year we would check in with an annual survey, have an annual review, set goals,” Barnett said. “What we’ve learned is the world today moves much faster than that.”

Tell me about it.

The downside to a data-driven approach is it can seem “Big Brother”-ish to staffers. But Glint said the surveys that the company sends out have an 80 percent to 85 percent response rate. “Employees tend to be willing to share,” he said.

Yeah, what downside?

Another drawback: Relying strictly on numbers can lead to the perception of a cold-hearted workplace.

Not the one Bezos knows!

“It’s easy to get so hung up on statistics that you miss the value of what that individual brings to the table in terms of personality, connectivity, and those intangible pieces,” said David Lewis, chief executive of HR outsourcing and consulting firm OperationsInc in Norwalk, Conn.


Related: An Amazon Morning 

At least profits were up. 

I've been doing a lot of culling myself, readers, which accounts for the lack of attention to a lot of things.