A recent feature by the Straits Times looks at how Amazon has built a positive work culture for its employees, after ranking top 5 in Singapore’s Best Employers list. Senior leadership shares the approach our company has taken to hire and retain passionate individuals, which has contributed towards developing a culture that is focused on empowerment, growth and innovation.
When Ms Livian Soo joined US-based Amazon Web Services (AWS) 10 years ago, not only was she one of the first local hires, but she also went on to become the first Singaporean woman to manage a global team from here.
As the global director and head of the Marketing Response Centre at AWS, Ms Soo looks after an international team that consists of 27 nationalities, and who together speak more than 30 languages.
“I think it is this diversity that allows us to best serve all of our different customers,” she says. “I believe everyone has the potential to excel, given the right support and guidance.
“My favourite part of the job is being able to provide my team with the opportunities to grow in their careers and push the boundaries on what they thought was possible.
“My management style is centred around encouragement and empowerment – and that’s important when managing a diverse and high-performing global team. I want to make sure everyone is equipped with the right skills to succeed in their roles. Removing barriers allows my team to scale our results, which makes for a dynamic, enjoyable and successful workplace.”
It is this work culture that makes Amazon, which focuses on e-commerce, entertainment, cloud computing and more, one of the top employers to work for. This year, the multinational technology company ranks fifth in Singapore’s Best Employers list, and tops the Retail and Wholesale category.
Cultivating a passion for creating
The Amazon culture is built on 14 Leadership Principles, a set of standards that employees adhere to and use to tackle work challenges so good and meaningful work can be done.
Each principle comes with concrete illustrations of how it is put into practice at work. For instance, the Bias for Action principle says: “Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.”
While the Amazon culture is key to attracting talent, the company also assesses candidates based on the same principles.
“We look for capable people that are passionate about building, inventing, and innovating for our customers,” says Ms Annella Heytens, head of Asia Pacific, Japan and China (APJC) Human Resources at AWS.
“We are searching for highly qualified candidates who personify the Amazon culture, and we determine that by exploring how they display the Leadership Principles in their careers.”
The emphasis on the customer has been one of the main drivers behind the products and services that pioneered by Amazon. This includes Amazon.sg, which was launched in 2019 to provide greater convenience and more selection for Singapore customers to shop online.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon also took swift action to ensure sufficient inventory and delivery slots so that customers in Singapore could purchase essentials from the safety of their homes. Amazon continues to work with local partners and leverage its international supply chain to meet customers’ needs.
Prioritising health and safety
Amazon remains committed to the health and safety of its customers, employees, associates and delivery partners.
“I’ve been with Amazon for 11 years now. As an Amazonian, I’ve seen first-hand how we put employee safety and well-being at the centre of what we do, anywhere in the world, be it at the fulfilment centres or in corporate offices,” says Mr Henry Low, country manager at Amazon Singapore.
“Even as the pandemic unfolded in 2020 and introduced challenges, we continued to prioritise the health and safety of our employees and customers, and took swift measures, implementing changes to physical infrastructure, operational processes, adjusting policies and protocols wherever required, to put the needs of our employees and customers first.
“It has not been easy, and I am proud of my team for staying the course, taking the hard decisions and doing the right things. It would be impossible to deliver results in this dynamic environment without extraordinary people.”
Amazon is dedicated to being a force for good in Singapore and supporting local communities. It supported 20 non-profit organisations and their Covid-19 relief efforts through monetary aid, donations of personal protective equipment, and delivery services. For AWS, it has been working with the private and public sector since the early cloud initiatives in the country.
“Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company,” adds Mr Low. “We take a long-term view in hiring and developing the best, and have continued to invest in scaling up our teams here in Singapore to keep pace with customer demand.
“We are opening new roles, as well as offering learning opportunities for our existing team to acquire new functional and technical skills. We remain committed to building a strong, diverse and inclusive team in Singapore, with the different insights and perspectives that diversity brings to help us build for the long term.”