business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal has a story about Amazon's workforce training efforts, reporting that "Amazon is in the midst of retraining a third of its U.S. workforce, spending $700 million over roughly six years to help everyone from fulfillment-center workers to software engineers prepare for new types of work."

Beth Galetti, the company’s senior vice president of world-wide HR, tells the Journal that "more jobs now involve working with advanced software or machines, even in fields that might not have traditionally required such digital acumen. Fulfillment-center workers in warehouses must understand how to work alongside automated tools, she said. Software engineers will need a deeper understanding of more advanced skills, such as machine learning. In the past five years, Amazon has seen a 500% growth in roles such as data scientists and networking and security engineers, she said."

The retaining path has had its share of bumps. For example, Amazon launched a program called Amazon Career Choice that "pays 95% of tuition and fees for certificates and degrees in high-demand fields such as nursing, work that could take staffers outside of Amazon. Early in the program, the company offered to pay for training in professions such as aircraft mechanics even when workers would have had to change cities to ultimately find work in the field."

Now, Amazon has "curated its programs down," working to keep workers engaged in programs that will allow them to stay in their communities.

“The No. 1 thing that causes our employees to stay or leave is whether they have access to do meaningful work,” Galetti tells the Journal. “Are they actually able to see the impact they’re having? We will lose employees if we don’t satisfy that need much faster than if they’re working for a manager they may not get along with as well.”
KC's View:
Amazon is in a position to spend a lot of money on worker education, more than most companies do. But … it is the understanding of how continuing education, in the broadest definition of the term, is critically important to maintaining a company's relevance, that really differentiates the effort. This investment in employees, properly directed and curated, can be an enormous competitive advantage.