Insider

Some Amazon managers say they ‘hire to fire’ people just to meet the internal turnover goal every year (AMZN)

Summary List PlacementAmazon has a goal to get rid of a certain percentage of employees every year, and three managers told Insider they feel so much pressure to meet the goal that they hire people to fire them. "We might hire people that we know we're going to fire, just...

Jeff Bezos

Summary List Placement

Amazon has a goal to get rid of a certain percentage of employees every year, and three managers told Insider they feel so much pressure to meet the goal that they hire people to fire them.

“We might hire people that we know we’re going to fire, just to protect the rest of the team,” one manager told Insider. 

The practice is informally called “hire to fire,” in which managers hire people, internally or externally, they intend to fire within a year just to help meet their annual turnover target, called unregretted attrition (URA). A manager’s URA target is the percentage of employees it wouldn’t regret seeing leave, one way or the other.

In a statement to Insider, Amazon’s spokesperson denied that the company hires employees with the intention of firing them, and says that it does not use the phrase “hire-to-fire.”

But the existence of the practice in at least some parts of the company shows how Amazon’s system of requiring managers to hit a target attrition goal every year can foster controversial norms and practices.

The most senior executives at Amazon, including incoming CEO Andy Jassy, closely track their URA goals, according to internal documents obtained by Insider. Jassy, for example, is expected to replace 6% of his division through “unregretted” departures on what appears to be an annual basis. 

Managers are pressured to hit these targets one way or another. According to a memo previously reported by Insider, Amazon Web Services teams that fell short of URA goals in 2020 were required to make up the difference in 2021. In other words, if a particular team had an attrition of 3% one year, but a URA goal of 5%, it would have to get rid of 7% of employees the following year. The document did not address teams that exceeded attrition goals.

That internal memo also directed AWS managers to place twice as many employees as it wants to get rid of into a performance-coaching plan called Focus. Amazon’s spokesperson said the company has no central goals about how many employees should be entered into Focus.

Focus appears to be a strategy for Amazon managers to get rid of enough employees to meet the URA goal. Those placed on the Focus coaching plan are often met with unrealistic goals and vague expectations, as Insider previously reported. Those who fail Focus are put into the next phase of the performance improvement plan called Pivot, which can lead to an exit from the company.

Amazon employees told Insider that the current performance review process gives managers too much power over their careers. Managers can put any of their employees on the Focus coaching plan, which prevents them from applying for other positions within the company, and they make it extremely difficult to get out of the plan, resulting in a voluntary resignation or forced termination from the company.

“It takes a team to hire but one messed-up manager to fire someone,” one employee told Insider previously.

Do you work at Amazon? Contact reporter Eugene Kim via encrypted messaging apps Signal/Telegram (+1-650-942-3061) or email (ekim@businessinsider.com).

Are you an Amazon Web Services employee? Contact reporter Ashley Stewart via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email (astewart@businessinsider.com).

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