Amazon Fires Hundreds Via Computer Algorithm. I’m Okay with That.

by Evil HR Lady on April 28, 2019

Remember when Amazon scrapped its artificial intelligence program for recruiting because it was biased against women? That wasn’t the end of computer decision making for Amazon. The Verge uncovered documents from Amazon showing that they use computers to warn and fire warehouse workers based on productivity.

While I’ll argue all day that it’s critical for companies to put my human into their human resources, I’m okay with this type of computer led termination scheme. Here’s why.

Productivity is objective in a warehouse environment

One thing Amazon doesn’t lack is customers, so there are always orders to be filled. When you work packing boxes, there’s a clear measure of productivity that can be tracked. Technology allows that to be tracked automatically and in real time. When you’re not living up to the productivity requirements, it’s time for a warning and ultimately a termination.

It’s very different than trying to measure productivity in, say marketing, as it’s difficult to track idea creation and brainstorming sessions. In this situation, there are clear indicators of when someone should be notified.

To keep reading, click here: Amazon Fires Hundreds Via Computer Algorithm. I’m Okay with That.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Hogg April 28, 2019 at 3:06 pm

Agree with your take on this.

And am reminded of the movie, Metropolis, by Fritz Lang.

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MariaRose April 28, 2019 at 8:40 pm

The main complainers about this job performance requirement are those who knew at hiring but expect to not be held to that achievement after they discover that doing this type of job performance is too hard of an effort. I doubt that Amazon itself doesn’t allow sufficient bathroom breaks especially if that job is a standing not sitting job, which should allow a break every two hours. Breaks don’t require team effort plus cigarette breaks aren’t separate extra breaks. I have found smokers feel they need and demand more breaks than allowed, hence another complaint about not enough breaks in the work period.
I agree with EvilHR lady that working in an Amazon warehouse is not a job for most who expect to not make any effort to work, but the tempo of performance is quite similar to working the drive through at any fast food restaurant during the rush by yourself. You have to be very organized and able to multi-task while maintaining a positive attitude. At least at the warehouse job, you aren’t dealing directly with customers who knowingly or not, can hold up the line. The only one holding up your performance is you. Besides if you really need to have a job that pays well enough to cover your expenses, you need to make an effort to work. There’s no such thing as Basic Income even though our politicians claim they can provide this “dream “.

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sunnyday April 29, 2019 at 8:06 pm

Agreed. In my area, you can find a warehouse job for $8.00/hr and the pace will be more casual. If you want to make the $15/hr then you will need to be focused and keep up the pace. I actually appreciate that workers have access to their productivity so they can see for themselves where they need to improve. Amazon wants people who have drive and are dedicated.
If anything ever happened to my job, I would certainly consider giving it a try. But I’m not sure I would be fast/skilled enough!

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grannybunny April 29, 2019 at 2:01 pm

Do you want it fast or good? Speed in packing doesn’t always translate into adequate care to protect the contents, some of which are sensitive electronic devices. Personally, I have received items from Amazon that I did not believe were adequately packed, in that the contents had shifted, or the outer box was either too small — or too large — for the contents. Fortunately, the contents were not damaged. But, way to go for Amazon in discovering yet one more way to dehumanize their employees.

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m April 29, 2019 at 5:44 pm

I worked at Amazon briefly a couple of years ago, taking a break after 25 years of being a registered nurse. It’s everything they say it is and then some but I can’t say I regret working there. For one thing, I never missed a break or a lunch. I got health insurance starting Day 1 and it was better than my last hospital’s insurance. And when my boss said “it’s your PTO, you can take it when you please, you don’t have to ask” it’s amazing I didn’t fall over dead from shock.

I quit because I just wasn’t very good at it. Picking takes mental focus and I while I could keep up with Rate requirements, it was stressful. If I’m going to be stressed at work I may as well go back to being a nurse, where at least I made decent money. But the managers at Amazon are decent people and all their expectations are consistently and clearly laid out. I was treated much, much worse by my employers when I was a nurse.

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Ed May 1, 2019 at 12:02 am

I think too much evidence points to the algorithm being calibrated too strictly as far as the human outcomes. There’s always someone that needs the money, but as a society we have a vested interest in there being better working conditions than this:
https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/whats-it-really-like-working-for-amazon-a-survey-of-241-warehouse-employees-says-its-toxic-one-called-it-worse-than-prison.html

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