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Jeff Bezos: 'We need to do a better job for our employees'

Julia La Roche
·Correspondent
·4 min read
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Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon (AMZN) and the world’s richest man, says the e-commerce giant needs to do a “better job” for its employees.

“I think we need to do a better job for our employees. While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success,” Bezos wrote in his final shareholder letter as CEO, referring to the union vote at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. 

[Read more: Amazon Prime now has 200 million members, jumping 50 million in one year]

The 57-year-old Bezos added that news reports about the company suggest “we have no care for employees,” which he refutes. “In those reports, our employees are sometimes accused of being desperate souls and treated as robots. That’s not accurate. They’re sophisticated and thoughtful people who have options for where to work,” Bezos added.

Bezos pointed to employee surveys that show 94% would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work. He also noted that employees in fulfillment centers are permitted to take informal breaks “to stretch, get water, used the reset room, or talk to a manager,” in addition to the 30-minute lunch and 30-minute break.

“We don’t set unreasonable performance goals. We set achievable performance goals that take into account tenure and actual employee performance data. Performance is evaluated over a long period of time as we know that a variety of things can impact performance in any given week, day, or hour. If employees are on track to miss a performance target over a period of time, their manager talks with them and provides coaching,” Bezos said, later noting less than 2.6% of employees are terminated due to their inability to perform their jobs.

In the letter, Bezos wrote that Amazon has “always wanted to be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company” he’s committing the company to be “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”

“In my upcoming role as Executive Chair, I’m going to focus on new initiatives. I’m an inventor. It’s what I enjoy the most and what I do best. It’s where I create the most value. I’m excited to work alongside the large team of passionate people we have in Ops and help invent in this arena of Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work. On the details, we at Amazon are always flexible, but on matters of vision we are stubborn and relentless. We have never failed when we set our minds to something, and we’re not going to fail at this either,” Bezos wrote.

According to Bezos, when it comes to safety, 40% of work-related injuries were musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as sprains from repetitive motions.

“We need to invent solutions to reduce MSDs for new employees, many of whom might be working in a physical role for the first time,” he wrote, pointing to the company’s coaching on body mechanics and using automated staffing schedules to rotate employees among job stat use different muscle-tendon groups to decrease repetition.

Bezos added that MSD injuries fell by 32% in 2020 from the year prior. This year, Amazon will invest more than $300 million in safety projects, including $66 million to create technology to avoid collisions with forklifts and other vehicles.

The CEO also touted the increase in its minimum wage to $15 for all U.S. employees back in 2018. Specifically, he pointed to a study co-authored by economists at the University of California-Berkeley and Brandeis University that found the pay hike resulted in a 4.7% increase in hourly wages among other employers in the same labor market.

“And we’re not done leading. If we want to be Earth’s Best Employer, we shouldn’t settle for 94% of employees saying they would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work. We have to aim for 100%. And we’ll do that by continuing to lead on wages, on benefits, on upskilling opportunities, and in other ways that we will figure out over time,” Bezos added.

Elsewhere in the letter, Bezos noted that Amazon hired 500,000 employees and now has 1.3 million employees worldwide. He said that employees earned $80 billion, plus another $11 billion in benefits, for a total of $91 billion.

**FILE PHOTO** Jeff Bezos To Step Down As Amazon CEO. WASHINGTON, D.C. DECEMBER 14: Jeff Bezos at the premiere of 'The Post' on December 14, 2017, in Washington, DC. Credit: Dennis Van Tine/MediaPunch /IPX
**FILE PHOTO** Jeff Bezos To Step Down As Amazon CEO. WASHINGTON, D.C. DECEMBER 14: Jeff Bezos at the premiere of 'The Post' on December 14, 2017, in Washington, DC. Credit: Dennis Van Tine/MediaPunch /IPX

Julia La Roche is a correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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