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Nadia Roslee, Partner Programs Specialist APJ, Public Sector joined AWS in 2017 as a contract staff and has now progressed to managing Public Sector partners in APJ.

Here’s how Amazon is keeping its employees satisfied in APAC

One of the biggest challenges organizations in all industries are facing today is keeping their employees happy and satisfied with their work. While there have been reports of layoffs in some industries, the reality is, that a large chunk of employees is also leaving their roles, in search of better prospects in other companies or industries.

Despite numerous packages and incentives being offered, employees are just now convinced enough to remain in the company. There are many reasons for this, including an unpleasant work environment or a mismatch in job skills, or even just deciding to take a break from employment.

Understanding the mindset of an employee can be rather challenging. Thankfully, technology can help provide some of the best ways to keep both employer and employee satisfied. Companies do not need to invest heavily in new technologies to understand employees but just need to use the tools they have with them already.

For a company like Amazon, managing and developing their talents are a priority, apart from hiring new talents. According to Sandra Teh, Chief Culture Evangelist for APJC at Amazon Web Services, while the company wants to hire and develop the best talents, the talents are also watching the employers.

“It is important that we ask if we will be able to give them the kind of assurance and opportunity to ensure that they stay true to themselves. Bring your voice, bring your perspective, and bring you as you are – this mantra stays true here at AWS,” commented Teh.

In fact, Teh pointed out that as a tech company, AWS uses technology to its advantage and makes sure that its employees are able to lean in and provide valuable advice as well.

“It is not just about listening to our customers, but also the internal best of the best folks that you hired and developed,” added Teh.

The Amazon way

Sandra Teh, Chief Culture Evangelist for APJC at Amazon Web Services

Teh refers to AWS as a candidate-obsessed company and it’s no surprise why they are like that. Yes, there may have been reports on unhappy employees and such in the US but the reality is, that the company is focused on consistency and seeks to understand what the modern talents of today are looking for, in this ever-changing landscape.

The same can also be applied to other companies as well, both tech and non-tech. But what makes AWS different is the culture in the organization. As Teh explains, no one employee is the same and AWS recognizes the importance of being accommodating to every employee and their needs. By earning mutual trust and understanding of every individual’s situation, AWS customizes and removes biasness to ensure that the community can come together to build an inclusive workforce and work culture.

One way AWS does this is by understanding its employees’ sentiments which is part of its 16 Leadership Principles. Employees are presented with daily polls that come with a question of the day, which serves to track employee feedback and take immediate actions, whenever possible.

Another initiative is that the last Friday of every month is known as Wellness Day for AWS across Asia, which is initiated after hearing the voices of its employees. It serves as a day for employees to disengage from meetings and place their focus on learning. AWS also has more than 500 online modules for its Training and Certification programs which are not just open to its customers, but also to its employees.

It’s no longer young vs old 

Understanding employee sentiments is one thing. But how can companies deal with the cultural divide among their employees? The generational differences in how things are done between different age groups remain to be a contributing factor to why some employees chose to leave their organization.

Gen Zs, Millenials, Gen Xs, and a small fraction of Boomers make up employees in most organizations around the world. Generally, each generation often finds it harder to work with another and this has led to many organizational problems, especially in how employees are allocated tasks, for example.

The tech-savvy Gen Z and millennials are often regarded as the group that prefers flexibility in work while most Gen Xs and boomers are often regarded as being old school in their working habits. However, during the pandemic, when all work was done virtually, all of them would end up relying on each other to get tasks done.

This multigenerational culture in most organizations is also one of the main struggles for most businesses. And even for a big tech company like Amazon, the multigenerational workforce would mean having the right tools to bridge the gaps between the generations.

For example, Teh pointed out that AWS has built a ‘Unicorn Gym’, that serves as a space for internal hackathons and brainstorming to take place. The space allows everyone to build, grow, learn, and develop ideas together.

“A cultural mechanism in AWS that I appreciate is the whole concept of the two-pizza team. For all meetings and discussions, we always bring the team together and if we have 2 pizzas on the table, no one goes hungry. Everyone is able to lean in, and have a fair share of contribution of creative ideas, and the ability to speak up should they be dissatisfied.”

Another interesting project is the AWS DeepRacer. While racing has been a male-centric industry, Teh highlighted that to ensure gender diversity, Amazon Web Services created the AWS DeepRacer Women’s League. The autonomous racing competition is driven by reinforcement learning that is open to women only. In fact, in Malaysia, AWS hosted the DeepRacer with Petronas as a fun way to introduce Machine Learning to Petronas employees.

Beyond inclusivity and diversity, Teh also said that AWS conducts a variety of mentorship programs with customers, partners, communities, and internally to introduce them to technology.