As a hugely successful online retailer, Amazon is firmly committed to bringing diverse backgrounds and points of view to bear on behalf of its myriad customers. There’s recognition that creating a diverse workforce to reflect the customer base fosters diversity of thought. Jo Day observes that this is true throughout the business, including Amazon’s security team, and duly reflected in the company’s ongoing leadership principles.
Gender, race and cultural diversity create better organisations, while cultivating ‘diversity of thought’ can boost the basis for action and creative problem solving. This idea is ably supported by a 2012 survey conducted by Deloitte involving 1,550 employees in three major Australian businesses that clearly showed the impact of workforce diversity on organisational performance. Interestingly, the report noted: “When Deloitte modelled the relationship between diversity and inclusion and business performance, we identified an uplift of 80% when both conditions were high… When there’s high diversity and low inclusion, or low diversity and high inclusion, the business outcomes are never as impressive as the high diversity and high inclusion combination.”
While it’s true that increased workforce diversity introduces enhanced degrees of complexity and strengthens the potential for misunderstanding and conflict, it also affords the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills, relationship building and cultural change.
The substantive body of academic research on the performance of diverse teams documents that “homogenous teams get to work more easily and more quickly, but when diverse teams learn to work together, the outcomes are superior” (The Workforce Diversity Network).
At Amazon UK, we want to bring varying backgrounds, ideas and points of view to decision-making within our security team and, indeed, the business as a whole. To support diversity in the security team, including attracting women such as myself into key roles, it’s important to harness the right culture.
On that note, the business is tremendously supportive of flexible working and there’s a keen focus on both professional and personal development. Employees are all set to succeed as there’s a defined commitment to supporting and developing Amazon’s female workforce and, indeed, all parents.
That support structure is provided through what’s known as a ‘self-serve’ culture. In essence, this enables individuals to seek out the personal development opportunities that best suit them, including top class internal training complete with instruction administered by an array of subject experts.
There are a number of affinity groups within the business that women can join as well as development and mentoring programmes. These are voluntary, employee-led groups specifically designed to foster diversity and inclusion as well as strengthen networking and community participation.
The groups are organised around a shared characteristic, such as race, gender or cultural identity. Each group leader co-ordinates programmes that promote cultural awareness, such as speaker events, community service days and heritage celebrations. The affinity groups are approved and sponsored by Amazon at its discretion and each group works with the diversity and recruitment teams to continually target the diverse talent that’s available in order to strengthen and enrich the business.
Amazon Women in Security (AWIS) is one of the newest affinity groups. Formed in February, this group was created to promote diverse perspectives, backgrounds and experience within the Global Security Team at Amazon. There’s recognition that security is an industry wherein female talents and leaders are under-represented. A similar scenario exists in the IT, engineering and finance domains.
Initially, the main focus was on networking and Best Practice sharing, career development and training as well as mentoring. Our mission is to increase the span of the professional network for women in security roles at Amazon in order to provide developmental support and mentoring opportunities, while also leveraging the strengths and knowledge of each other to reach our goals and vision: “We will be advocates for ourselves and each other by developing our careers and representing our value to the broader organisation.”
The tenets of AWIS are to provide a means to connect women in the security professions globally at Amazon, build a community that fosters knowledge-sharing, collaboration, mentorship and networking and support women within the security industry. It’s also about providing assistance as females pursue advancement in their careers and promoting visibility to the broader organisation of the successes and value of our female leaders in order to strengthen an inclusive and diverse environment within the workplace.
By females, for females
AWIS was formed by female members of Amazon’s global security organisation who recognised a lack of women in leadership roles and who are aware of the importance of female leadership presence in our team.
Industry statistics show that most security regimes have an average of 10% of females in their teams. Amazon is already leading the way above that level.
The AWIS members are passionate about supporting diversity in loss prevention and security roles as well as helping each other to succeed. AWIS is sponsored by Amazon’s worldwide vice-president for the Health & Safety, security, sustainability and compliance organisation within the customer fulfilment operation as well as the worldwide director for operations security.
Amazon Women in Engineering is another affinity group focused on making Amazon the best place to work for ‘technical’ women. This particular group works to actively promote diversity at Amazon, and particularly so for engineering positions. It also provides a network for women within the engineering teams to share experiences, participate in relevant events and gain exposure to career and development opportunities.
There’s also the Women in Finance Initiative, a global forum for women in finance and their advocates through which they can network and partner to promote a more welcoming and inclusive workplace culture. The group was launched in February 2015 with a goal of supporting the complex career and life needs of women at all levels and making Amazon the long-term career choice for women in finance.
The Amazon Warriors
A host of other affinity groups support the many and varied cultures, backgrounds and personalities present within the business. The Black Employees Network was established in August 2005 to support Amazon’s black employees. In parallel, the Asians at Amazon affinity group was set up in December 2010 as a support structure for our Asian employees and to promote diversity.
For their part, Amazon Warriors are employees who have served in their respective countries’ military forces, those who are still serving and Amazon employees who support them. The group was established in September 2011 to provide a support structure for veterans and military-friendly employees across the globe. It facilitates a network to share experiences, celebrate recognised holidays and ensure visibility and exposure to career and development opportunities through participation in relevant community and recruiting fairs and events.
Also, the Amazon People With Disabilities affinity group was established in 2015 and is committed to building a community that backs employees with disabilities and their allies through raising awareness, supporting career development, participating in company outreach and improving access for both ‘Amazonians’ and the business’ customers.
How is Amazon activating diversity within the organisation and promoting organisational inclusion? The business lives by and promotes its leadership principles, and particularly so when it comes to hiring and developing the best talent. This means recruiting candidates with not only strong backgrounds, but also strong opinions. We set the stage during the interview process that diversity of thought is welcomed and expected.
As both a security professional and a female, I feel empowered in my role thanks to interaction with direct colleagues, but also as a result of participation in the affinity groups and personal development opportunities. Amazon embraces diversity, not just by talking about it, but by placing it at the very heart of its culture.
To quote Mike Hulser REI: “Diversity is what comes through your doors. Inclusion is what you do with it.”
Jo Day CPP is Regional Loss Prevention Manager at Amazon UK