Amazon is rolling out a new training program this week aimed at helping underperforming employees placed on the company’s infamous performance improvement plan,
according to an internal email obtained by Business Insider.
The new program, called “Pivot,” pairs the underperforming employee with a “subject matter expert” called Career Ambassadors who give guidance and support for a fixed period of time, the email says.
The program comes as Amazon’s hard-charging work culture and its impact on employees faces increasing scrutiny.
“Pivot is a program for employees who show a sustained period of underperformance, despite coaching and support. The program provides employees with options to (1) improve performance, (2) voluntarily leave Amazon with severance, or (3) appeal their manager’s decision to place them in Pivot,” writes the email.
“Throughout an employee’s time in the Pivot program, they receive process guidance and support from a dedicated team of Pivot subject matter experts called Career Ambassadors (CAs).”
The new program is the first step Amazon is taking to improve its notorious performance improvement plan, more commonly known as “PIP,” which is designed to put pressure on those deemed to be failing to reach their goals. The Pivot program is available to those placed on PIP. Previously, PIP did not provide any coaching or training, according to a 2014 Gawker report.
Being put on PIP is considered a “death sentence,” according to some employees that Business Insider has spoken to. The NY Times described it as “Amazon code for ‘You’re in danger of being fired'” in a critical profile of the company in 2015 (Amazon strongly refuted the New York Times report, which described a brutal and stressful workplace).
According to one person familiar with the matter, Amazon’s HR managers said during an internal conference call that the new Pivot program is “our way of coaching and enforcing changes in behaviour” and a “necessity” to ensure performance of their teams.
A number of Amazon employees we spoke to did not know about Pivot, as the program just launched earlier this week. A lot of them were not even aware of the title, Career Ambassadors.
But a job post for Career Ambassadors, posted just six days ago, gives a clue to what the position entails.
It says the position is seeking “
an innovator with expertise in coaching, facilitation, employee relations and HR to help us launch a game-changing project for helping employees reach their full potential.”
All Career Ambassador positions require over seven years of experience in “HR, mediation, and social services,” and are available across the whole company, including its cloud service, Amazon Web Services.
Pivot is likely part of Amazon’s broader effort to rectify its brutal “stack ranking” annual review process. Until last year, Amazon used a system that rates employees against each other to filter out the lowest-rated employees before putting them on PIP. The company said in November that it was planning to overhaul the entire review process this year.
It could also shed a positive light on Amazon’s work environment that’s often been described as being more hostile than other companies. In November, an Amazon employee was reported to have attempted suicide at its Seattle headquarters, although the motive remains unclear.
Amazon declined to comment on this story.