Editor's Note: HR Dive and Supply Chain Dive worked together to cover Amazon Jobs Day.
Amazon claimed that it didn’t have an expected specific number of applicants that would show up for Amazon Jobs Day at its Baltimore fulfillment center on Wednesday. But with lines looping around the parking lots and within the enormous warehouse, Amazon spokesperson Lauren Lynch said, “We are just wowed by the amount of people.”
The goal of Amazon Jobs Day, a jobs fair occurring at select Amazon fulfillment centers nationwide, was to hire 50,000 new full-time and part-time employees, primarily to fill warehouse positions. In Baltimore, Amazon's goal was to find and hire 1,200. Despite the talent shortage facing supply chains worldwide, Amazon has found a way to confront the problem head on, and job seekers noticed. According to John Olsen, Vice President of Amazon’s Worldwide Operations Human Resources, the company received 20,000 job applications as a result of their job fair.
Getting ahead of the talent shortage
Companies are struggling with hiring for their supply chains for a variety of reasons, but one of the largest reasons is the skills gap, where supply chain and logistics positions require specific degrees, certifications or skillsets from applicants. Amazon's hiring approach not only turns that problem on its head, but they are also offering highly competitive wages and benefits to boot.
“We want people who are leaders and have demonstrated success,” Lynch said. “You don’t have to have a degree or have a retail or warehouse background.”
"We want people who are leaders and have demonstrated success."
Amazon invests heavily in training new employees, so landing a job at Amazon requires no prior experience, according to Lynch.
Barrett Bracey, an Amazon associate at the Baltimore fulfillment center whose role involves onboarding new hires, said Amazon jobs really only require that you’re “mentally tough” and have a “strong work ethic.”
A military veteran, Bracey said his experience has translated well at Amazon, where he interacts with a diverse group of workers. His onboarding responsibilities are likely to keep him busy in the upcoming weeks and months, given Amazon’s hiring goals.
“You just have to be able to deal with the repetition,” Bracey said of hires adjusting to their new roles in the fulfillment centers.
Competitive salaries and benefits packages drive hiring
Training is a big deal at Amazon’s fulfillment centers, so much so that it’s part of employees’ benefits packages. In addition to hosting on-site classrooms, Amazon says its Career Choice program will pay 95% of tuition costs for its full-time and part-time workers, even if the lessons aren’t always relevant to their work at the e-commerce giant.
Add that to a mix that includes retirement plan options, 20 weeks of paid maternity leave (including a program that allows new moms to structure their workflow) and company stock options, and it’s clear that Amazon is offering perks that many part-time workers in retail and similar industries don’t usually have access to.
Lynch says the goal is to offer “egalitarian benefits” that are the same for warehouse associates and executives alike.
“This job has the best benefits I’ve had. Amazon [offers] more money, better benefits,” said Damion Brown, one of many hopeful applicants at the Baltimore event. Brown, who currently works for Walmart, was offered a job after his interview. He accepted.
“They didn’t give me a specific position,” he said, but Amazon told him it would be a position in its warehouse.
Amazon applicants assembled into huge lines extending out of a white tent to receive informational packets and to be sorted into groups for tours of the fulfillment center, followed by job interviews afterward.
"This job has the best benefits I’ve had."
Lynch said Amazon’s hiring spree isn’t just to prepare for peak retail season, because every position the company’s hiring for will exist beyond the usual seasonal timeframe.
“We looked across the network and just realized we needed a lot more help,” she said. “The thing about Amazon is, it’s not just a job, it’s a career path.”
Amazon, one of the largest companies in the world based on market capitalization, has consistently put forth a business model that embraces risk, from offering free shipping, to purchasing grocery stores, to filing for patents. Instead of avoiding the risk of the growing skills gap, the e-commerce company is choosing to close the skills gap on its own, once again taking the bet that its size, scope and innovation will eventually win the day, and put even greater competitive pressures on its competitors.