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Layoffs, buyouts, and rescinded offers: Amazon’s status as a top tech employer is taking a hit

Published: 12/09/2022

Amazon’s new reality has been a harsh wake-up call for would-be employees. Several told Recode they were counting on the job to remain in, or reenter, the US on a work visa and were distraught over needing to find new employment in a short period of time.

One employee who had their job offer pulled in late November had just received it in September, with a start date planned for January. Another employee who was slated to start working in a high-paying technical role in the retail division in January was offered a job in October only to have it pulled back the next month.

“I think the worst part for Amazon is the damage they’ve done to their reputation,” this person told Recode.

The employee said they mainly chose Amazon over offers from rival companies because the Seattle-based tech giant was offering a significantly higher pay package. If the financials had been more equal, they said, they would have likely chosen a competitor with a better reputation for work-life balance.

While Amazon had long remained a stable corporate hirer that kept adding new, lucrative roles every year — especially as its stock price rose consistently for much of the past decade — it also developed a reputation among some staff as a sometimes brutal and cutthroat workplace, and one where some employees from underrepresented backgrounds felt discriminated against or worse.

Earlier this year, Insider reported that high-performing employees were leaving Amazon corporate divisions at double the normal rate. And according to an internal Amazon memo from June that Recode reviewed, perception of the company’s corporate culture already seemed to be having a negative impact on recruiting even before this cycle of layoffs and pulled offers began.

The internal memo cited a LinkedIn survey of more than 7,000 software developers who weren’t working for Amazon at the time. Among a set of 25 top tech competitors, Amazon only ranked 19th for “good work-life balance,” while it came in 10th for “flexible work arrangements” and 11th for “ongoing employee training & development.” These rankings, the memo stated, were hurting recruiting, with 40 percent fewer job seekers applying for software development jobs at Amazon in May than in January.

Those preexisting recruitment issues could now be exacerbated by the tech giant slashing roles and rescinding job offers. Amazon seems aware of this and is attempting damage control: For those who have had an Amazon job offer reversed, the company will pay them a month’s worth of the base pay they were set to make.

“It’s going to have an impact on your employer brand,” Tom Wilson, president of the HR executive search firm Frederickson Partners, said of companies that rescind job offers.

But whether the one-month payment is enough to fortify the company’s reputation as a top employer is an open question.

Despite offering buyouts to at least hundreds of its recruiters, Amazon expects to hire in some growing areas in 2023, such as Amazon Web Services, even as it retrenches in others like Alexa and its core retail business. After all, if it wants to compete for top tech talent as it pursues ambitions in other industries ranging from e-commerce to video streaming to cloud computing to advertising, it needs to improve its reputation.

While 10,000 job cuts only represent approximately 3 percent of all its corporate roles, this is a shift that’s foreign to most employees at Amazon and those who once saw the company as their dream employer.

Read more: Vox

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