Amazon’s Data-Driven Approach Becoming More Common

Amazon isn't the only company that is using data on employees to improve productivity. A New York Times article over the weekend portrayed Amazon's work culture as "bruising" and "Darwinian" in part because of the way it uses data to manage its staff.

The article depicted a work culture where staffers are under constant pressure to deliver strong results on a wide variety of detailed metrics the company monitors in real time -- such as what gets abandoned in peoples shopping cards and what videos people stream -- and encouraged to report praise or criticism about colleagues to management to add to more data about workers performance. The story led to an outcry on social media.

Amazon's CEO Bezos said in a memo to staff on Monday that the article doesn't accurately describe the company culture he knows. But experts say the kind of data-driven staff management Amazon uses is set to become more common as technology continues to transform the American workplace.

"Every company is somewhere in process toward using data to get a better handle on who their top performers are and to understand where people stand," said John Challenger, CEO of outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Companies, both large and small, have been moving away from traditional human resources reviews that rely on annual performance evaluations. They're moving toward a more data-driven approach with more frequent feedback, check-ins, and other metrics.

Consulting firms Accenture and Deloitte both said this year they would revamp their performance review processes, for example, adopting a more data driven approach that includes more frequent ratings by managers and other internal feedback and data that can be aggregated and analyzed to provide a better portrait of performance than a single rating. In an essay in the Harvard Business Review, Deloitte said the new approach uses...

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