Amazon's glitchy human resources technology, combined with policies that create turnover instead of retention, make the company's warehouse and fulfillment jobs even harder than they already are for workers and leave many without anyone to help address their problems, according to a New York Times investigation of the company's JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island.
Amazon lost about 3% of its warehouse workers every week before the pandemic, a rate more than double the national average, according to the Times report. During the pandemic, nearly a third of warehouse workers weren't showing up to work, and Amazon offered unlimited unpaid time off. But once the company installed COVID-related cleaning and distancing procedures, incoming Amazon CEO Dave Clark wanted all of the workers back as soon as possible, so he opted for a plan that gave workers a week to apply to remain on leave, creating a chaotic rush that overwhelmed the company's online system, phone and fax lines, as well as the small group of people hired to manage the applications.
For those who did go back to work (and helped facilitate Amazon's most productive period in history), most people could not find HR representatives trained to handle their problems, and the company often failed to clearly communicate its policies around speed and monitoring in the workplace, according to the Times story. Many people were forced to use an employee management app and chatbots to address serious problems (they were not built for such circumstances). The combination of small HR teams and struggling technology, as well as a lack of transparency around workplace policies, reportedly left many people stuck or outside of Amazon's worker management system, fighting for paychecks, disability benefits or other money or time owed by the company.
Some senior managers at Amazon now worry that the company will be unable to continue its rate of hiring and eventually burn through the U.S. workforce as the company continues to grow, according to the Times report. Amazon has long held a policy that focuses on hiring college graduates as warehouse managers, rather than promoting fulfillment center workers; the JFK8 warehouse has a promotion rate less than half of Walmart's, Amazon's closest competitor. The company also ends guaranteed wage increases for workers after three years and offers incentives for them to leave the company, rather than stay and seek promotion, according to the report.