- Linkedin published its list of the top US companies for career growth, ranking Amazon first.
- LinkedIn's revamped criteria this year included factors like promotion rates and gender diversity.
- But the list didn't consider other key factors like pay and racial diversity.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
In his final letter to shareholders as Amazon's CEO earlier this month, Jeff Bezos downplayed concerns about the company's working conditions, defending it as "Earth's best employer and Earth's safest place to work."
The letter came on the heels of Amazon's aggressive anti-union campaign, multiple illegal firings of whistleblowers, a tripling in the number of labor complaints against the company last year, and climbing injury rates that are nearly double the industry standard.
When Amazon announced its quarterly earnings call this week, it leaned on another source to prove that it's a great place to work: LinkedIn. On Wednesday, the Microsoft-owned job platform published a list ranking "the 50 best workplaces to grow your career in the US" in 2021.
According to LinkedIn's criteria, Amazon earned the top spot, which the company touted in its earnings release along with high marks on lists by Fortune and Boston Consulting Group.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
LinkedIn did a massive overhaul of its criteria for this year's list - which it explained in depth in an accompanying blog post - eventually landing on what it said were seven "pillars" that researchers have shown lead to career progression: "ability to advance; skills growth; company stability; external opportunity; company affinity; gender diversity and educational background."
While any list claiming to rank the "top" anything is ultimately based on subjectively chosen criteria, several seemingly important factors didn't make the cut, including salary data or any demographic data beyond gender.
LinkedIn confirmed salaries were not factored into the rankings but wouldn't comment further about salaries on the record.
"In terms of the diversity pillars, we measure gender diversity, specifically, which looks at gender parity within a company, as well as educational background, analyzing the spread of educational attainment among employees. We are working on additional diversity criteria and hope to continue expanding this pillar in future years," a LinkedIn spokesperson told Insider in an email.
Amazon paid its median US employee $37,930 last year, and the company said this week that it would raise pay by up to $3 per hour for 500,000 employees. But despite lucrative salaries and benefits for corporate employees, research has shown for years that Amazon setting up new warehouses often drives down wages in the area.
In an email to Insider, Amazon spokesperson Adam Sedo pointed to more recent research from researchers at the University of California Berkeley and Brandeis University suggesting that when large employers (the researchers studied Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Costco) raise pay for low-wage jobs, other low-wage employers in the area - from fast-food restaurants to other retailers - raise rages to a smaller extent as well.
At the same time, a Bloomberg analysis in December found that because Amazon pays its warehouse workers less than the industry average, warehouse wages drop by more than 6% in areas where Amazon sets up its largest logistics facilities - and don't reach pre-Amazon levels until five years later.
Amazon disputed those findings, with a spokesperson telling Bloomberg: "Hiring more, by paying less, simply does not work. Many of our employees join Amazon from other jobs in retail which tend to be predominantly part-time, reduced benefit jobs with substantially less than our $15 minimum wage. These employees see a big increase in pay per hour, total take-home pay, and overall benefits versus their previous jobs. What surprises us is that we are the focus of a story like this when some of the country's largest employers, including the largest retailer, have yet to join us in raising the minimum wage to $15."
Still, the salary disparities between Amazon's low- and high-wage workers take on added significance when factoring in the racial disparities between Amazon's warehouse and corporate employees. In 2020, 32.1% of all Amazon employees were white, while 13.6% were Asian, 26.5% were Black, 22.8% were Latinx, 3.6% were multiracial, and 1.5% were Native American.
But the path upward is narrow for employees of color at Amazon.
Among corporate employees, 47% are white, while 34.8% were Asian, 7.2% were Black, 7.5% were Latinx, 3% were multiracial, and 0.5% were Native American. Among senior leadership, 70.7% were white, 20% were Asian, 3.8% were Black, 3.9% were Latinx, 1.4% were multiracial, and 0.2% were Native American.
LinkedIn's decision to rank Amazon as the best place to grow your career without accounting for racial diversity data may be especially surprising to some members of Amazon's diversity and inclusion teams, who told Recode that internal Amazon data showed that Black employees are promoted at a lower rate and given worse performance reviews than white coworkers.
Insider's Allana Akhtar also reported that Amazon lags far behind competitors like Walmart - ranked ninth on LinkedIn's list - when it comes to Black and Latino representation in upper management.
As for Amazon's warehouse workers, Bloomberg reported in December that Amazon is "transforming the logistics industry from a career destination with the promise of middle-class wages into entry-level work that's just a notch above being a burger flipper or convenience store cashier," citing government data that showed more than 4,000 Amazon employees are on food stamps in just nine states.
Turnover rates at Amazon warehouses are estimated to be as high as 100%, according to the National Employment Law Project.
One possible explanation for why LinkedIn's list still ranked Amazon first despite the above data may be that its list appeared to focus on white-collar workers.
In her blog post explaining the methodology, LinkedIn senior managing editor Laura Lorenzetti said that the list "since its inception showed professionals where people like them were most eager to work."
LinkedIn's spokesperson told Insider that the list included all full-time and part-time employees regardless of job title - except freelancers and interns - and that LinkedIn "regressed our findings against outside sources such as the World Bank and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and evaluated various scoring mechanisms for every pillar we selected."