Amazon’s corporate culture
Amazon has 14 leadership principles. The company didn’t just articulate them, but actually lives by them and makes sure that every employee follows them.
“Bringing Results” and “Always Being Right” are just two of the 14 points. The result may not always be a successfully launched product. Understanding why a project failed is also a good result. The worst thing for Amazon is to do a project and not draw conclusions from it.
As a result of this project, the company concluded that the market did not need the phone in this particular configuration. This is also the result, and they have a positive attitude towards it: we did it, we tried it, we spent some money, but despite the failure, we still have money and we’re still afloat.
They’re not afraid to fail. They take reasonable steps to avoid it: they think through the risks, they try to avoid obstacles. But if for some reasonable reason something doesn’t work out, they still write it down in their accomplishments.
Every newcomer to the company is given a video called Intentions don’t work. In it, Jeff Bezos talks for 5 minutes about how almost all people, with few exceptions, have good intentions. It’s hard to find someone who does something bad because they want to do something bad. Most decisions people make because they want to do something good, but it just doesn’t work that way. You have to build mechanisms, push employees to do the right thing.
The review helps employees adjust their way on the team. At the performance review, the manager polls colleagues about how well the person being evaluated meets each of the company’s leadership principles.
Who the company hires and promotes
Amazon wants many cool professionals, so the corporation can afford to choose the very best. They try to hire self-motivated people who know what they want to do. “What’s your goal in life,” “What do you want to achieve,” and “Why do you go to Amazon?” are common interview questions. At the very beginning they try to find out the person’s motivation. That’s why the company employs a lot of engineers who have the eyes to do something interesting, to try new technology, etc.
Thanks to this approach they don’t spend extra money on motivation. Although they also have their own tools for the involvement of employees.
This is practiced in many U.S. companies, but because Amazon is just a huge team, they have it on a particularly large scale.
Every year the corporation organizes a general meeting of all employees at the stadium. At it, Jeff Bezos and the other board level guys talk about last year’s results, talk about future plans, and hold an awards ceremony for outstanding projects, teams, and people. There’s even a separate list of nominations by which they identify the winners, call them up on stage, tell everyone how great they are, and the whole stadium applauds. There’s no monetary reward for winning a nomination; the point is the emotional charge.
Sometimes the company’s largest customers come to such meetings – Netflix, SalesForce – and tell them what success they have achieved with the help of Amazon products.
There are similar meetings in a more private format: separately at divisions and separately at teams, but also with Bezos. Any participant can ask him a direct question and he will immediately answer or ask one of his assistants to answer, if he thinks they have more expertise in the matter.
The company tries to make such meetings as accessible as possible to all employees. For example, it is possible to watch a live broadcast while on a business trip.
According to an Amazon manager with whom we spoke, such events are very motivating for all participants, and after they are usually noticeable boost in work.
Promotions for employees
The salary of the average employee rarely grows in multiples over the course of his or her tenure. But there are promotions that all people who work for the company receive. These promotions go up every year. For example, people who have been with the corporation for 5-10 years have already had their stock value increase by more than 10 times.
In general, Amazon seriously cares about how long people work for their company. For example, every 5 years an employee’s badge color changes. First it’s blue, after 5 years it’s yellow, after 10 years it’s lilac. And people are very appreciative and proud of their badges. These badges do not give any special privileges, except for authority.