The Workday/Amazon saga raises serious questions on HCM

It is too early to say definitively why Amazon decided to stop using Workday, but it is a topic worth a closer look. In 2017 Amazon began to deploy Workday Human Capital Management (HCM). Workday also chose AWS as its preferred public cloud provider in 2018.

On July 27, after the story was leaked, Workday stated in a blog post that the two companies had mutually agreed to stop the deployment of  its HCM at Amazon 18 months ago. Just looking at the timeline, this means just two years after it began deploying Workday, Amazon stopped. Assuming Amazon waited until Workday was on AWS before ramping up the deployment, then the time it spent using Workday may well be far shorter.

Could it be a cost issue? Similar to other SaaS products, Workday is licensed on a per employee basis. A significant proportion of Amazon’s operations are supported by the gig economy. And there’s a correlation between every gig worker recorded in the system and the Workday subscription fee.

Beyond cost of ownership

But looking at Amazon itself, the way it treats staff and the gig workers it hires, has been under scrutiny for a number of years. Did this fuel Workday’s decision to distance itself? After all, Workday wants people to know that its products are used by the biggest corporations in the world. One would hope, these organisations care about their employees.

In 2015, The New York Times published Inside Amazon, an article which illustrates a culture of fear, back-stabbing and data-driven performance reviews that directly correlated to annual staff culls across Amazon. One of the Amazon workers who was caring for her dying father, told The New York Times: “When you’re not able to give your absolute all, 80 hours a week, they see it as a major weakness.”

In March, AWS employee, Charlotte Newman, filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Washington, which accuses Amazon of a systemic pattern of discrimination based on the colour of her skin and gender. And in June, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered Amazon and Amazon Logistics to pay $61m after it failed to pay Amazon Flex drivers the full amount of tips they received from Amazon customers over a two and a half year period.

Amazon may be one of the most successful businesses ever, but is a culture of fear, discrimination and a laser focus on employee metrics something we should all strive for? One would hope most enterprises aim to engender a strong empathy with employees and a culture to support staff.

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