Swati - Director of HR, Amazon India Operations image
Swati - Director of HR, Amazon India Operations

In the HR world, these last 18-19 months have probably been the toughest. How have you and your teams kept the morale of employees high? How have you addressed the myriad questions that they may have had in this period - from physical health, to emotional well-being to just their actual jobs?

The first step for anyone in a people experience function is to acknowledge that pandemic and its impact has both visible and invisible impact on our people and the communities they live in. The uncertainty, unpredictability and impact is hard to measure and irrespective of all policies and mechanisms we put in place to support our people, what matters most is to be available to individuals in the moment and to lead with empathy. I have been humbled by the grit, determination and customer obsession of our front line teams across the country and of the determination of our staff working from home to ensure our front lines are supported. This sterling example of ownership displayed by all Amazonians helped us in focusing on an optimism-driven, forward-thinking outlook, that is the corner stone of a positive mindset.

As Amazonians , we are blessed to have strong Day1 mechanisms to drive our thinking, and in the last 18 months the Day 1 tool kit became our best friend in thinking through employee support that was not just “good intentioned,” but built with speed, at scale and with sustainable mechanisms , leveraging technology and focused on the user. We came up with multiple interventions to support our large network of employees, across the board, whether it was educating our frontline on COVID protocols or running campaigns on mental and emotional wellness, or putting together comprehensive financial and non-financial support systems for our employees and partner network.

“As Amazonians , we are blessed to have strong Day 1 mechanisms to drive our thinking.”

Our primary focus, as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, was to ensure the safety of all our associates, partners, and employees. For those who may not be aware, we added close to 100 changes in our on-ground operations. We introduced a series of flow changes, policy changes, changes in delivery mechanisms, and sanitization measures, amongst others, to ensure social distancing and safeguard the health of our teams as well as customers. The well-being of our people is paramount at Amazon - We deployed a ‘safety-first approach' to ensure they have access to a comprehensive support system, should they need it.

Over the past year, Amazon has introduced many initiatives that encompass medical support, financial and insurance assistance, health and wellness support as well as critical support services and resources. As an organization, the pandemic required us to re-think and adapt our engagement with virtual working and engaging in the “ work with home” and not just “ work from home” thinking. Our teams enabled several programs to support families of employees, engaging children at home, driving a mindset of flexibility as employees figured out their new normal. Hundreds of Amazonians volunteered their time to support others , a tribute to the spirit of “One Team”. We saw our teams stepping up to support Amazonians based outside of India with their families back home. I am deeply grateful to all of the people experience teams across India business, who came together to obsess over the experience of our employees in India through this time.

Career Day is on the horizon. Against the COVID backdrop, in your view, how will an event like this help job seekers? What is the advantage that a company like Amazon can bring?

Amazon Career Day is a single-day virtual event for job seekers, interested in working at Amazon or elsewhere regardless of their level of experience, professional field, or background. Career Day will aim to provide a platform for prospective employees to discover the world of job profiles and growth opportunities at Amazon. Career Day will be global in scope—taking place in nine countries—and local in execution, with regional content streamed in each country. It will take place over the span of 24 hours and will follow a ‘chase the sun’ model, with events commencing in North America and proceeding westward.

“The advent of Career Day will enable job seekers and interested candidates to understand the requirements of the evolving landscape of the workforce.”

We recently commissioned a survey that indicates 59% of Indian professionals are actively looking for new jobs. The pandemic is prompting professionals to rethink their career paths, more than 2 in 3 job seekers in India are looking to switch industries as a result of COVID-19. The advent of Career Day will enable job seekers and interested candidates to understand the requirements of the evolving landscape of the workforce. Through this virtual event, professionals will be able to interact with Amazon leadership and get insights on the skill sets required to enhance their profiles and stay relevant in the changing job market. Amazon’s Career Day will not only focus on the requirements of the e-commerce sector, but 140 Amazon recruiters will conduct 2000 free, one-on-one career coaching sessions with job seekers across the country

The recruiters will offer advice on how to approach the job search process effectively, resume-building skills, and interview tips that will help candidates in their search for the right jobs, across industries and at Amazon. An event like Career Day will benefit interested job seekers to get in-depth knowledge of industry-agnostic areas such as engineering, applied sciences, business management, supply chain, operations, finance, HR to analytics, content creation and acquisition, marketing, real estate, corporate security, video, music and many more. Through Career Day, we aim to keep innovating on behalf of interested job seekers and build a platform that allows them to re-think their career in the field of their preference.

There have been various interventions around diverse hiring and inclusion in Amazon India Operations– can you tell us a little more about how this started and the plans to strengthen this pillar?

As we strive to be the Earth’s best employer, we continue to be committed to a culture of inclusion , that offers equal opportunities to aspirants and employees to unlock their full potential and ensuring our policies and mechanisms are built on a platform on equity, empowering them to do more. At Amazon, we believe that diversity is not just about gender, but also about including different cohorts of people represented in our communities and in our customers. In the last few years we have focused our efforts around women, the LGBTQI+ community, military veterans, and the differently-abled, amongst others.

To give you an example, our continuous efforts allowed us to create unique job opportunities for women in the logistics space – We now have four women-operated delivery service stations in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and will celebrate this festival season with the women and the PWD in our front line teams. We have also launched an All-Women Virtual Customer Service (VCS) center, enabling women to continuously leverage their skills, strengths, and capabilities, from the comfort of their homes. Our RE-Kindle program is a thoughtful ramp back opportunity for women returning to their careers after a break. Our efforts to include transgender associates in our front line workforce has started to gain momentum. Our efforts on creating opportunities for people with disabilities began with our efforts with the hearing and speech impaired across our delivery stations and has led to a detailed study on accessibility and deployment across multiple disabilities across our network. I am especially inspired by our efforts on inclusion of young adults with learning disabilities in our front lines. In our efforts to create meaningful opportunities for different cohorts, we not only created a strong veteran program within our network, but worked with our Line Haul partners to identify meaningful opportunities for frontline veterans, in our extended partner network.

“At Amazon, we believe that diversity is not just about gender, but also about including different cohorts of people represented in our communities and in our customers”

We embrace the diversity of thoughts and across gender, sex, race, age, physical ability, and more. As an organization, we continuously try and remove biases from our processes and policies. Our job descriptions are inspected regularly to ensure they don’t inadvertently favor one gender/employee demographic over the other. All our policies are gender-neutral and cover same-sex partners and rally for LGBTQI+ communities strongly. Our hiring panels are diverse to ensure thorough and objective candidate assessment. Our talent decisions do not get impacted with someone’s stage and we have made well-deserved promotions while women have been on maternity breaks. Efforts on DEI are not just about attraction of diverse talent but about nurturing programs that enable the talent to thrive and attract more talent within the organization. It is about enabling existing employees to build capabilities to engage meaningfully with diversity. Meaningful DEI interventions require equal effort on existing cohorts and the incoming cohorts to create a new thriving ecosystem. Am excited about the DEI council across the Lines of business within Amazon India, which brings together passionate alleys, to drive scalable actions and programs on DEI for Amazon India.

Finally, how would you describe your journey at Amazon thus far, and what is the one thing that you think is very special about working here?

Amazon India recently celebrated its 8th anniversary and throughout this journey, it was awesome to be inspired by those who were here 8 years back celebrating the mindset of “ it's Day 1” . The older we grow, the younger we get. The opportunity to serve customers in India is immense and we are just starting. We will continue to innovate on behalf of our customers and obsess on getting them the largest selection with the best speed and service. We also continue to ensure that, no matter where our customers reside, they can experience seamless, safe and timely deliveries. This has seen us strengthening our operations capabilities, to build a fast and resilient network, and to fulfill customer promises and deliver delight.

We are humbled that this growth has been accompanied by the creation of diverse and meaningful work opportunities for individuals across the country. Our approach has been that ‘anyone who has the desire to work, can find work,’ which has seen us introduce a series of full-time, part-time and flexible work opportunities across our Operations network, that enabled us to tap into varied talent pools. We have created a multitude of leadership, managerial, supervisory and operational roles across Transportation, Customer Fulfilment, Facilities Management, and Security Operations, amongst others – each of which are an integral part of our network.

Its hard for me to define one special thing about Amazon. Everyday is an opportunity to learn from and work with wicked smart people who are passionate to solve high quality problems on behalf of others , to innovate for the right experiences on behalf of our customers, partners, sellers and communities , to focus on best experiences for our associates and employees as they pursue their work, and to nudge myself and others each day to create more than we consume. I am humbled with this opportunity and excited to be a part of this journey.