According to GeekWire, at the end of 2016 Amazon employed 268,900 people, a staggering 47% growth rate from 2015. The online retail giant has announced that it will be creating 100,000 new full-time, full-benefit U.S. based jobs over the next 18 months, raising the headcount even further. Unlike many other tech behemoths like Microsoft and Apple, many of Amazon’s workers are low-skilled hourly workers, so Amazon’s openings will be in many roles all across the company; CEO Jeff Bezos is committed to expanding operations and says Amazon will “open new fulfillment centers, and continue to invent in areas like cloud technology, machine learning, and advanced logistics.” Here are a few things you can look forward to during these next 18 months of Amazon expansion.
You can look forward to new, interesting Amazon products and services. Amazon is at various stages of development in multiple new projects. Amazon Prime Now is a service for Amazon Prime members in select cities that delivers products in 2 hours or less. AmazonFresh is also open to members of trial cities and delivers fresh food to your door for an added monthly fee. Unlike similar services, AmazonFresh invests in inventory and hasn’t partnered with one store, so its advancement has been slower compared to its food-delivering competitors. Echo. Kindle. Amazon Video. Dash Button. Amazon’s latest project has been their Seattle grocery store, Amazon Go, which eliminates all checkout lines using the newest technology. Amazon’s expansion means cool new things are a-coming!
Not only will more Amazon investment mean new services and technology, but also more process innovation. Amazon attracts some of the best minds, and more talented employees will mean better, faster ways of doing things. While you may think that Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) centers are organized like massive Costcos containing every product you could ever imagine, Amazon actually uses the random stow method. Millions of products are stored in a million square foot warehouse in what seems to be an utterly random fashion, but the computers know exactly where every item is. This reduces the time it takes to find one item and get it on its way– the time between “order” button clicked and item packaged may literally be a few minutes because of this process. This mastery of efficiency is a continuous journey that Amazon will continue to optimize.
In an age when everyone’s worried about robots taking human jobs, Amazon believes it has found the ideal human-robot assembly line. Amazon has employed robots since 2014, which allows the FBA centers to store significantly more inventory. However, not every job is automated and robots and humans work alongside each other in these massive warehouses. A large portion of the 100,000 new jobs is expected to be in this sector in the warehouses. You can expect that these new jobs will continue the often politically-charged discussion on robot potential and how humans will fit into a workplace of the future. Amazon is leading that discussion by example.
Amazon also leads by example in its commitment to the education of its hourly workers. Despite a New York Times study that claims Amazon’s white-collar workers are overworked, underpaid, and really, really unhappy, Amazon does have a track record in investing in their on-the-ground workforce. Through the Career Choice Program, Amazon will pay for the education of hourly associates in budding industries, even if it would not be for an Amazon career. There are even onsite classrooms in many FBA center locations. Amazon is working to rehabilitate its reputation for the past year in light of the study and continue to recruit top talent but still boasts of its environment that drives hard work and innovation. As Amazon continues to grow they will continue to set the standard and compete with other large companies in establishing better work-life policies, potentially changing the direction of the workforce and American lives.
Not all effects of the 100,000 increase in Amazon workers will be positive. As Amazon has expanded it has destroyed smaller businesses in industries across the board. The 100,000 increase does not offset the number of retail jobs that have been lost thus far due to the Amazon Effect or Amazon Factor. Amazon is even putting pressure on other massive chains that are usually blamed for putting mom-and-pop stores out of business. As Amazon uses these new workers to continue to dive into what is possible, they may also be pushing the boundaries of how many products people will want to buy from any source other than Amazon: the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that online retailers create jobs slower than they eliminate them. While in the long term the market will become more efficient by Amazon’s modernization and continued development, they will eliminate many jobs in the process.
Overall, Amazon’s massive expansion plans probably has both good and bad plans for your business. As an Amazon user, you may be really excited about their latest technology and abilities! But as a worker, the technological advancements and poor work-life balance precedent is a little worrisome. Time will tell how Amazon’s growth will continue to shape the world!