| 4 July, 2021 | 8 Min Read

Inside Amazon company culture: Intense and effective

Former and current employees have associated the success of Amazon with its corporate culture. The set standard of this company is one that many companies aim to emulate. In this article, we’ll be showing you what makes the work culture at Amazon so unique.

The work environment at Amazon is considered high-pressure and many employees find it challenging to keep up. However, the e-commerce giant has shown tremendous progress over the years and CEO Jeff Bezos has its company culture to thank. Amazon’s work culture has earned them the business capacity to meet the demands of the e-commerce market.

Amazon's corporate culture has also been described as purposeful Darwinism, which pretty much explains the extra-push at this company.

About Amazon

Amazon is the world’s largest online marketplace. In 1994, Amazon started as an online book store but has scaled its operation over the years and now sells electronics, toys, movies, music, housewares, and other essentials. The e-commerce giants provide services to the four primary sets of customers; content creators, consumers, sellers, and enterprises.

This American multinational technology company has over 1.2 million employees across 235 locations, being one of the biggest companies in the world. In 2021, Amazon has won six Comparably awards commending its admirable work culture: Best Places to Work in Austin, Best Places to Work in Atlanta, Best Places to Work in Seattle, Best Places to Work in Los Angeles, Best Global Culture, and Best Company Outlook.

Their unique approach

Here are the different ways Amazon has its corporate culture structured;

1. Writing culture

How Amazon holds meetings is different from what you’ll see at other companies. Unlike other companies, opinions and ideas involved in making business decisions are documented. The size of these documents is usually about six pages. These documents drive a lot of clarity when resourceful information is to be discussed.

Employees at the meeting sit for at least 30 minutes to read these documents and then discuss. During this discussion, points are drawn out from each page and evaluated properly before moving on to the next. This way, employees with contributions and questions don’t have to wait till the end of the discussion – when they might have forgotten what they had to say.

This culture frowns against the use of PowerPoint, as it ruins the flow and clarity of meetings. They also prefer having employees spend more time on strengthening their claims than throwing up designs and styles that add no value to the meeting.


2. Staying agile

Amazon uses its two pizza rule to stimulate agility in its corporate culture. This rule stipulates that each team must be small enough to be fed with two pizzas. This notion came to play during the formation of its technical teams, as they needed to maintain easy communication to prevent information loss.

However, this logic is now applied across all departments in Amazon to increase productivity. Team members feel a lot more significant and accountable in smaller teams than with larger teams that are difficult to manage.


3. Tenets and decision making

Amazon uses tenets to encourage individual decision-making in teams. These tenets act as principles that guide the decision-making process when each team member is faced with challenges. Each team gets a list of 5 tenets and has its charter explain how the tenets should impact their ideas and approach to certain tasks.

Tenets help team members make trade-offs – choosing what matters most. So when they get to a point where there’s a clash in value, these tenets help them decide which they should reach for. The purpose of these tenets is to skip the long chains of seeking permission from employees at the managerial level.


4. Push to innovation

Employees at Amazon are prompted to think outside the box. They are pushed to providing answers and not letting issues hang around. Employees are encouraged to come up with new ideas and solutions that put a problem to a conclusion.

5. Startup culture

Amazon maintains the energy that most startups have. The drive and constant pursuit for excellence. Most organizations that have attained the level of success that Amazon is on, slowly begin to withdraw and let things play out without putting in much effort as they did at the beginning. The employees still work as hard as they were when Amazon was still trying to build a brand. The consistency at Amazon is a work culture to embrace.

6. Customer-centricity

At Amazon, the satisfaction of customers is made a priority. The company hires talents that monitor the trend and desires of customers as they change over time. The change in customer demand is duly addressed, helping them gain the trust and loyalty of their customers.

Grove HR - Jeff Bezos quotes


Why it works

Amazon is a results-driven company. Its work culture is centred around productivity and innovation. The company keeps its teams small, which gives team members full-on responsibility and accountability for the task at hand. The introduction of team tenets helps employees make decisions that positively impact the company, as they can approach issues without having to take permissions that might end up being shut off.

Clarity has also proven to be Amazon’s key to success. When business ideas and solutions are documented in written form, they can be transferred across several levels and not lose their value or be misinterpreted. All employees have the same information. These written documents act as a point of reference when needed.


How to apply it

Applying Amazon's work culture at your company is only possible if you adhere to their leadership principles. Here are 12 leadership principles Amazon's employees refer to every day:

1. Ownership

Encourage employees to act like owners by taking up responsibilities and make decisions in favour of the company.

2. Are right, a lot

Leaders are rarely wrong. Get employees to build their self-confidence and follow their instincts. Encourage them to trust their instincts.

3. Learn and be curious

Leaders never stop learning. So, get your employees to acquire more skills and be more open-minded about learning new things for self-development.

4. Hire and develop the best

Hire highly talented employees and allow them to help each other grow. This way, they keep raising the bar at work and are challenged to do better at all times.

5. Insist on the highest standards

The high standards of the company must be met at all times. Employees must understand that they have a reputation to protect and not go below the standards they already set.

6. Think BIG

Encourage your employees to think outside the box. There should be no limits to their ideas and they should always look at the bigger picture.

7. Bias for action

Help employees understand the importance of risk calculation and how some irreversible actions should be avoided.

8. Frugality

Make more with less. Employees should work within the budget and not expand the costs of establishing an idea.

9. Earn trust

Earn the trust of your employees by showing them that you have their best interest at heart. As a leader, listen when they speak and pay attention. Make your employees feel heard.

10. Have backbones: disagree and commit

Be open-minded to criticism and contributions from your employees and teach them to do so too. Respectfully decline ideas that will not make any useful contributions.

11. Deliver results

More importantly, ensure that all actions and decisions made yield positive results.

12. Customer obsession

Leaders are only obsessed with their customers. Help your employees understand that the customers are the reason why the business is still standing. So, focusing on customer satisfaction and demands is a must.

What is it really like working at Amazon?

Amazon has a high-paced work environment. While some employees see it as a push to become better at their job, others feel that the constant quest for perfection at this company is a lot of pressure. The work here is endless and employees work for long hours to keep up. Employees also feel like they are disposable and not appreciated enough for their hard work.

Before adopting the Amazon culture, pay close attention to whether or not your employees can handle such pressure. Otherwise, your company culture only becomes toxic.

If you're wondering about the state of your company culture, utilize this template, send out a survey and find out!

Download free Ultimate Company Culture Survey →

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