Thursday Thrasher with the Culture Vulture: Amazon

By Lizz Pellett

Welcome to Thursday Thrasher with Lizz Pellet, the Culture Vulture.

This blog is dedicated to cruising company websites, identifying key elements of organizational culture and dissecting the employment branding message. We are going to look at companies from company A to Z to find organizations that are crystal clear about what kind of an employee they would like to attract, retain and yes, even repel.

Along the way, we’ll uncover companies that may say one thing – but display a very different image and brand. And that’s where you come in. You might be an employee of a company I cruise – if you agree with my findings, great – let me know. If you disagree with my findings – great, let me know. You can also suggest companies for me to dissect. My promise is to give it to you straight. The good, the bad and the ugly of how the company is representing their culture, through their employment branding efforts – real or perceived.

We were all taught “A is for Apple”, but not this time. First up…

Typical consumer driven website that wants you to buy stuff, not engage with them. There’s no social media or networking that is evident. No link to a corporate Facebook page or even a Twitter feed. It’s like they’re still in the 90s. The site does recognize you as a returning customer and offer you history of your purchase which is always helpful, but no interaction.

The link to the Careers section is found on the very bottom of a very, very long page under “Get to Know Us”, grouped in with investor relations and press releases. What does that say? Employees may be the lowest priority. Yawn, the career page is flat and touts all kinds of good thing about them, like, Amazon is continually evolving and is a place where motivated employees thrive and employee ownership and accountability lead to meaningful results. Funny, I didn’t see any pictures of these motivated employees front and center on the career site. The only shots of real people (versus Microsoft stock photographs) is under Code Ninjas, but it’s not clear if these are employees or thrill seeking travelers who want to carry around a little plastic figure to be photographed for the website.

The company values are not very compelling and quite frankly are uninteresting to read through. You don’t get the feeling of motivation here. The Inside Amazon page tries to be hip and cool by referring to their employees as Amazonians. I wonder if they really do use this term or if it’s some marketing gimmick to be seen as being super cool. The videos on this section are BORING and do not add a lot of value to the potential candidate experience. The fact that three of the listed videos were not available for viewing is another misstep.

The biggest value of the video that did work is that it is a great representation of the diversity of these Amazonians. The bad part is it looks like a high school student threw all the clips together for a YouTube submission.

For me, I would be repelled. A company with such a recognizable company name does not seem like an interesting place to work.

--Lizz Pellet is a Fellow from Johns Hopkins University and the Chief Culture Officer at EMERGE International where she supports organizations in measuring culture and creating employment brands. She is the author of the SHRM publication The Cultural Fit Factor, Creating an Employment Brand that Attracts, Retains and Repels the Right Employees. She has also written Getting Your Shift Together: Making Sense of Organizational Culture and Change. A dynamic educator, facilitator and master at business process re-engineering, Pellet is a certified national speaker and has presented over 70 professional learning sessions in the past three years. Learn more at

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