This model supports the need for greater employee flexibility while recognising the need for in-person collaboration, says Annella Heytens, Head of APJC HR, Amazon Web Services Singapore. 

The hiring process at Amazon Web Services is stringent but it’s why the company is able to recruit highly qualified candidates who can personify its culture. Amazon Web Services’ positive workplace culture that led them to bag the bronze in Excellence in Workplace Culture at the HR Excellence Awards 2020, Indonesia. In this interview, Annella Heytens, Head of APJC Human Resources at Amazon Web Services Singapore (pictured above) shares how employees are supported to achieve success through opportunities to grow and learn.

Q How would you describe your overall HR strategy, and what are some key milestones you’ve accomplished thus far?

Our strategy is to make it easier for employees to do meaningful work and be customer obsessed. We are always looking for ways to remove barriers and fix problems they may encounter in pursuit of this goal.

We build workplaces for Amazonians to invent on behalf of the customer. That’s our HR mission. We’re always looking for people to help us build and innovate for our customers. When we are hiring, we always evaluate candidates against our 14 Amazon Leadership Principles (LPs). We are looking for highly qualified candidates, but also those who personify our culture. We typically start the process with a phone screen, and only the best fit or best qualified individuals make it through.

Everything we do from hiring to supporting employees to achieve success, is about helping them through their careers at AWS by providing them with opportunities to grow, and to experiment by trying different things at Amazon.

We want people to build, invent, and continuously learn.

Q What role has your leadership team played in supporting your HR priorities? How does your HR team collaborate closely with senior management to achieve business goals?

Organisations need leaders that can collaborate with various business teams to meet business objectives, move quickly, and invent for customers. That’s no different in our approach with HR, and our customers are AWS employees.

We focus on our culture using our LPs, and aim to reduce complexity for Amazonians while having 'Bias for Action' – the LP meaning, speed matters. It is critical to keep everyone connected to the company through a healthy and vibrant culture.

Q The pandemic has caused many business plans to be upended. What was the greatest challenge you faced and how did you manage to pivot your HR framework?

The health and safety of our employees is our top priority. At AWS, employees that can effectively work from home can to continue to do so until June 30, 2021. We are carefully reviewing the situation.

We are using Hybrid Work Geography (HWG), which supports the need for greater employee flexibility while recognising the need for in-person collaboration to innovate on behalf of customers and cultivate our Amazon culture.
Obviously, we’ve had to make changes - like hiring using a virtual process, and keeping everyone safe when they are working in our offices.

Q What was your game plan for measuring ROI in workplace culture? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

Data-driven decisions are the backbone of everything we do at AWS, and underpins our overall HR policy as well. However, it is important that we always maintain our unique and proudly peculiar culture.

As we support employees, customers, and communities through this pandemic, we’ve put more time and focus on the health and wellbeing of our employees; developing tools like our learning portals and assistance programmes to support them; and helping them stay connected online with our various Amazon affinity groups.

Q With WFH being the norm for the bigger part of the year, how has your organisation further ingrained workplace culture?

What is clear is that the future of work is now adaptable, flexible, digital, and purposeful. I previously mentioned HWG, but remote work or work from anywhere, anytime and on any device is where we are at the moment. It will be some time before things return to normal.

WFH may be a different experience, but ultimately you always need to have strong connections and engagement with employees. We are doing this, and we have our various virtual groups – from coffee meetings through to virtual team off-sites.

It is of utmost importance to always understand who our employees are; what they most care about, what concerns them and challenges them; what help do they need to find balance and fulfilment in the workplace; and most importantly how this current situation is impacting them.

Photo / Provided

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!