Amazon Defies “Good” HR Practice, and Succeeds

Amazon.com has been a bit of an oddity since its founding in 1994. In spite of having led the way in making ecommerce a solid portion of the world’s business landscape, it often barely makes any money. International Business Times recently covered the company’s strange business methods, which include offering free shipping and expanding at a rate no advisor would suggest. Not only this, but Fortune recently published an article entitled “Working There Will Kill You, But You’ll Love it.”

The company evidently has their employees work long hours, often on the weekends. Not only this, but they are expected to be accessible by email 24/7, ignoring what seems to be a fundamental commandment of good HR, leaving work at work.

For a long period of time, the company also insisted that their engineers, managers and operations specialists carry pagers on them at all times. The reason for this was so that they could be contacted in an emergency. Employees at an online commerce website, of which there are many (Ebay, Shopify Overstock, etc.) were expected to be as reliably reachable as some doctors.

In spite of this, employees that work at Amazon reported that they enjoyed the stress. “Amazon will work you to death, either you are gone after two years, or you stay forever because you love working that hard,” an employee told Fortune. Many employees reported being proud of the culture put forth by the company, following fourteen leadership principles that the company instills in its workers.

The articles from Fortune and the Times have not stopped swathes of people from applying at the company or using its services. Some have objected to the articles, saying they’re taking parts of the story out of context and that Amazon employees should be allowed to work in a high-pressure environment if they wished. Others have sided with the article’s findings, saying the workplace environment is unhealthy.

The jury is still out on Amazon, but one thing is for sure: it is a fascinating time to do HR work. With companies like Amazon making national headlines, human resource experts will be called upon more and more to weigh in and help fundamentally change how Americans work.

Personality Testing is a Crucial Part of Team Building and Assessment

An important part of every human resources department is understanding how to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their employees. Understanding how someone works within a work environment can be difficult, with a variety of different group and personal dynamics impacting an individual’s relationships with their co workers and their team.

However, this process is simplified today by a variety of different analytical tools and tricks that human resources workers have at their disposal. Some of the most useful of these are simple personality tests. A whole industry has developed around personality testing and assessment, with tests using a broad range of psychological theories and common sense wisdom to give their two cents on a person’s characteristics and development. Human resources experts would do well to take advantage of these tools and apply them to ease the difficult task of balancing team dynamics in the work place.

One useful example of this would be the DISC Personality System. The DISC Personality system comes from the work of writer and psychologist William Marston. Marston developed a 4 prong theory of personality built around behavior types. He believed all behavior could be reduced to the categories of dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance. This was later developed into a test by industrial psychologist Walter Clarke in 1957.

Participants take a test comparing groupings of words to their own self-assessment of their personality, picking those that most and least represent them. It paints a picture both of how participants view themselves, and how others view them.

The DISC profile’s validity has been called into question over the years, but so has the validity of many different personality tests. Human resources professionals may find that by administering a variety of different tests alongside something like the DISC they may be able to paint a much fuller picture of their employees’ strengths and weaknesses than they would by using one test alone.

Coalition to Hire Young People Opens Discussion About Discrimination in the Workplace

Human resources professionals are responsible for creating an atmosphere that is both productive to the company and healthy for employees. This sounds simple enough, but it can turn into an absolute mess when issues of discrimination related to race, religion, gender, and sexual preference are thrown into the mix, not to mention dealing with the general problems that can arise in the workplace big or small.

Even actions that were intended to be positive and helpful can be seen as discriminatory and expose a company to potential litigation. No one has learned this lesson better than Starbucks, who have come under fire this week after joining a coalition of over a dozen other companies pledging to hire thousands of disadvantaged 16-24 year olds.

Legal analysts and human resources professionals throughout the industry believe this to be a risky move for all the companies involved. Included in the coalition are airline Alaska Air, drug store CVS, and the tech giant Microsoft Corp.

By pledging to hire young people, there is some implication that older candidates might not be considered regardless of their qualifications. Even though the coalition has good intentions, hiring based on age is technically a violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines, which state that it is illegal for an employer to offer a job opportunity that someone is discouraged from pursuing as a result of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.

Furthermore, by targeting disadvantaged young people with systemic barriers to receiving an education, there are some who are accusing the coalition members of targeting racial minorities who make up a disproportionate amount of the pool of disenfranchised young people.

Regardless, human resources in the future must always be careful when trying to provide an opportunity to someone who needs it, while at the same time not excluding anyone along the way.


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