Amazon Reveals New HR Policy: Hire in Even-Numbered Years, Fire in Odd-Numbered Years

lab126-logo-w-tagline[1]Does anyone know if there is a saying about tech companies hiring one year and firing the next? If not, then we might want to coin one for Amazon (the Bezos Cycle, perhaps).

It was around this time last year that Amazon went on a hiring binge at its screen tech sub Liquavista, Lab126 in Calif, and Lab126's new office in Boston, and now it seems that Amazon is going through a shakeout.

Fast Company is reporting that a number of senior managers have departed Lab126/Amazon in the past few months:

In recent months, a string of departures and managerial changes has hit Amazon’s Lab126, the company’s Silicon Valley-based R&D group that has developed its most high-profile consumer products, including the Fire Phone, the Siri-like Echo device, and the Kindle hardware. According to multiple sources familiar with the reshuffling at Lab126, the changes were long overdue, a response to an organizational structure that some contend had grown "bloated" if not "inexplicable," as one former high-level employee describes it.

...

The internal changes began a number of months ago, following the departure of Malachy Moynihan, Lab126’s VP of digital products and the leader of its Fire TV and Echo projects, who left to pursue an outside opportunity. Multiple sources indicate Ian Freed, Amazon’s VP of devices who essentially oversaw the marketing of the Fire Phone, is now taking a sabbatical from the company following disappointing sales of the device and responsibility changes with Amazon vice presidents Greg Hart and Peter Larsen; it's unclear what his future role at Amazon will be. During this time frame, Lab126 president Gregg Zehr, with support from Bezos and devices SVP David Limp, initiated a re-org of the company’s hardware unit, which preceded a realignment of the software teams in Seattle last month.

I know it could be a stretch to try to connect the hiring last year to the reorganization this year, but in the past year Amazon has launched the Fire TV, the Fire Phone, Echo (virtual assistant), and the Dash (handheld shopping tool).

It would make a lot of sense for Amazon to have staffed up to get the products out the door, and then after the rush is over reconsider how they could better organize the hardware division so it was more efficient and effective.

Or as Fast Company put it:

Each time the group started work in a new product category, it would hire a product leader, who would in turn hire a team for that project. The programs were basically run likestartups. That process may have worked in the early days, when Lab126 was small and growing organically, but as Lab126 scaled, sources say the various programs became more siloed, a challenge for Amazon as it tries to create a hardware ecosystem as seamlessly integrated as Apple’s and Google’s.

The odd-even year timing is probably strictly a coincidence, just like the fact that this reorganization following the Fire Phone flop was a coincidence.

About Nate Hoffelder (11585 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

6 Comments on Amazon Reveals New HR Policy: Hire in Even-Numbered Years, Fire in Odd-Numbered Years

  1. It was common practice in both large computer companies that I worked for. They always tried to claim they were hiring in different areas, but some of the reality is that they were hiring in the same areas–but younger people (often college hires) at much lower salaries.

  2. This is bizarrely unsuccessful and unfunny sarcasm that seems provoked by oversensitivity to legitimate concern.

    The article does not state the reorg was a result of poor results, it merely says that the reargue followed the poor results. This is basic chronology not hypothesis. The most direct claims to a cause you quoted TWICE from Fast Company and seems quite sensible:

    “According to multiple sources familiar with the reshuffling at Lab126, the changes were long overdue, a response to an organizational structure that some contend had grown “bloated” if not “inexplicable,” as one former high-level employee describes it.”

    “That process may have worked in the early days, when Lab126 was small and growing organically, but as Lab126 scaled, sources say the various programs became more siloed, a challenge for Amazon as it tries to create a hardware ecosystem as seamlessly integrated as Apple’s and Google’s.”

    Other quotes directly contradict your contention:

    “As the secretive operation grew, so too did redundancies and inefficiencies in its organizational structure. But while some argue the recent executive departures and organizational restructuring are a result of poor company performance or the Fire Phone debacle, others paint a picture that is more nuanced. They say the re-org actually represents a doubling down by Bezos on his company’s efforts in the consumer electronics space—a vote of confidence in the R&D group’s direction—and serves as a sign that Lab126 is maturing as it takes on Apple and Google in more and more areas.”

    “It’s tempting to view these managerial changes in this light—an attempt by Bezos to somehow rein in Lab126. Wall Street has criticized the hardware group’s recent performance, following a $170 million write-down for unsold inventory related to the Fire Phone. But despite the bad press and shareholder agita, the truth, according to multiple top current and former employees, is that Bezos was actually impressed with how the phone’s hardware team delivered with the Fire Phone, regardless of its reception in the market.”

    “Rather than a harsh reaction to the device’s failure, these sources say, Amazon’s recent re-org was actually designed to enable more hardware development at Lab126. ”

    “The hardware re-org stemmed from executives recognizing that Lab126 had reached a point of maturity where it could no longer run like a startup, or multiple separate startups.”

    “In other words, the re-org is not happening because of the Fire Phone flop, but in spite of it, these sources say. ”

    What’s also clear is the heads of some of those most directly responsible for Fire (outside of Bezos) are rolling and that Lab216 is reorganizing as a result of massive growth, poor organization currently (siloed fiefdoms), and following recent failures.

    None of which seems ridiculous, hysterical, baseless, unimaginable, illogical, etc… certainly not so as to legitimize the stupidity and sarcasm of this post. SO I’m left asking: did you actually read the article or does the failure of the Fire Phone stick in your craw for some particular reason such that you came away with the complete opposite point of the article?

    • I don’t understand what I did to piss you off. I was just going for mildly humorous, not sarcastic. And I think i hit the mark.

      • I don’t know why you think I’m pissed. I just think the only way to describe this article is stupid, ignorant, and sarcastic, and that you deserve to know that. I can’t fathom how you came away with the exact opposite intention than the article tried very hard to create — to such an extent that I can only imagine you didn’t read it or are not very bright.

      • Mr. Nate, I say this in all seriousness, after reading Tim F.’s postings, yes ,both of them, you need to watch your back. In view to the shooting in Paris, France and stalking of people all over the place, please think about what I say. The first one was a long post and to me the subject was/is very important to him. The second one was bitter and hateful. In keeping with my personal code, when I read something in a forum that invokes strong emotion in me I do not immediately write a response. I had dinner, went to sleep, got up and watched a comedy on tv and then sat down to post this. To put it simply, Tim F. scares the hell out of me. Please contact the police there in Las Vegas and in you home town. Be Safe!!!

  3. I certainly never would have heard of this story if you hadn’t put it up, so I thank you for that.

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