The Seattle Times reports that as Amazon proceeds with its plans to lay off 18,000 employees, a number of those workers are the people recently hired in human Resources to deal with warehouse workers.
Here's how the Times frames the story:
"In August, Amazon rolled out a new system to help its warehouse workers connect with a human — rather than a chatbot — when they had questions about things like time cards or time off.
"Amazon’s goal? Respond to questions within 10 seconds.
"For warehouse workers, the COVID-19 pandemic — and the unprecedented number of questions about sick time and corporate polices — exposed flaws in the system that left some workers confused about how or why they were fired, and unable to reach anyone who could fix mistakes. Strict attendance rules, workplace expectations and high injury rates mean warehouse workers are often searching for answers that can be elusive in a network that includes thousands of warehouse associates.
"Less than six months after launching the new system as another resource for those warehouse associates, Amazon trimmed the workforce in charge of responding to those questions.
"As part of a wave of layoffs that could total 18,000 workers, Amazon is cutting from its human resources department, including teams meant to assist warehouse workers with everything from terminations to protected leave to questions about day-to-day operations … For a mostly remote team that Amazon calls its Regional Centers, the cuts mean fewer people to help answer questions from the network of warehouse employees who turn to HR for assistance. Most Amazon warehouses have an on-site HR employee or team to answer immediate questions. But employees can also contact the Regional Center if those teams are jammed or unable to answer the question."
- KC's View:
The optics ain't great. Amazon has come under considerable criticism for working conditions in its warehouses, and reducing the support teams that are charged with helping distribution center workers navigate the system may not be the best look.
I'm sure there are arguments on both sides, but it seems eminently possible that Amazon, given a choice between efficiency and effectiveness, and facing financial pressures, is going with efficiency. That may not be the best long-term choice.