Contractor Rips Fast-Growing Amazon’s Reliance – on Contractors

Susan Hall
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Amazon’s headcount has more than tripled in the past three years, according to GeekWire. In its quarterly report, the company said its payroll included 97,000 full- and part-time employees, up from 28,300 at this point in 2010.

Those numbers include staff in its distribution centers, though, which have been proliferating, so that doesn’t directly compare with tech companies such as Microsoft or Google. The increased headcount is one of the factors squeezing the company’s profit margins, the story notes.

However, it scored almost at the bottom of the list on employee loyalty, with average tenure of just one year in a study by PayScale. (Google was fourth from the bottom with average tenure of 1.1 year.)

It’s not clear how the e-tailer counts full-time contractors, but an open letter at GeekWire from a contractor points to potential reasons there seems to be a revolving door.

Contractor Steven Barker worked on the X-Ray for TV and Movies development team. He says in his missive to CEO Jeff Bezos that the company’s reliance on temps encourages low-quality work and inconsistent productivity and wastes useful resources on training.

He cites instances in that unit when one boss left, and though various temps working on the project applied for that job, none was hired. The person who was hired, though, was trained by the temps. But because she didn’t really understand the project, longer-tenured temps were training the new temps. Those veterans were let go when their contracts were up. Work quality suffered, performance scorecards were instituted to jettison those who made too many mistakes, and on an on.

It might be an issue of sour grapes on Barker’s part because he was let go when his contract was up, because the new manager was a woman, or any number of reasons. But it does sound like an unsustainable way to try to create innovative new products.

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