We will also offer benefits to our employees, including employee shares, a starting bonus as well as health and dental insurance, Amazon Vice-President for European Operations Roy Perticucci said in an interview with the Sme daily.
SME: Slovakia has been mentioned in the past as a potential investment destination for Amazon. Two years ago, however, the company decided to build a fulfilment centre in the Czech Republic. Why did you finally decided to invest in Slovakia?
Roy Perticucci (RP): The current investment into the logistics centre is first of all a result of the successful work of Amazon in Bratislava-based offices which already employ 850 people.
SME: The new logistics centre will be situated in western Slovakia, close to Sereď. Why did you pick this location?
RP: We have found everything we needed in Sereď.
SME: What exactly?
RP: There are three basic factors we take into consideration when choosing a locality. First of all, sufficiency of potential labour force is important for us. Our investments are big, thus we try to use their potential as much as possible.
This, of course, is not possible without transparent legislation and construction permits or the possibility of unlimited operation. The third important factor is infrastructure and trouble-free accessibility of our logistics centres.
SME: Did you choose the locality on your own or did someone, for example, from the government, help you?
RP: We have real estate teams which identify appropriate places across Europe. We always choose the localities, in which we want to invest, properly.
SME: Are you considering additional investments in Slovakia?
RP: We are seeking new spots across all of Europe, and we have only recently announced an investment in Slovakia. I don’t want to talk about our future plans until they are finalised.
SME: Sereď, in the Galanta district, is a locality with one of the lowest jobless rates in Slovakia. Will you try to find potential workers also in other regions and persuade them to commute to work?
RP: Our main task will be to make Amazon the jobseekers’ first choice. We offer attractive benefits and several career growth possibilities. We expect that we will be able to convince the employees with our offer to commute.
SME: Will you also hire people from neighbouring Hungary?
RP: We will search for talented people regardless of their nationality.
SME: Companies in Slovakia currently say they cannot find enough good and qualified people willing to work.
RP: I won’t comment on what other companies say. We know from our surveys there are many people with quality education from various professional fields.
SME: Do you also plan to train new workers?
RP: Yes, we have very comprehensive starting training courses and programmes in Amazon.
SME: It used to be said in the past that your company has rather strict rules. How do you choose your employees?
RP: Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, famously said: “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.” We are very selective and we seek the biggest talents that would identify with our passion for principles.
SME: What does an ordinary interview in your company look like?
RP: I will give you an example of recruitment for a managerial position. The first step is a phone interview with a recruitment employee, either from our company or our recruitment agencies. This is followed by a writing task. For senior positions we require the candidates to give more extensive answers.
The candidates then undergo a personal interview with several leading employees of Amazon. We invite a candidate to our company to have an interview with our HR manager, sales director, bar raiser, i.e. the full-time employee who alongside his work spends two to 30 hours a week interviewing people searching for jobs at other departments of the company. The last step involves analytical tests.
SME: You plan to employ 1,000 people in Slovakia, according to the official statements, but the unofficial information suggest the number may be higher, up to 3,000 staffers. Which is true?
RP: The number will be higher as we also recruit people for our corporate centre in Bratislava. Moreover, we will hire extra people during season peaks.
SME: What exactly will the employees in the Slovak centre do?
RP: Our employees will use the most up-to-date technologies to assess the condition of products that could not be delivered or were returned to Amazon.
We have already launched recruitment of several experts for positions from operation managers and engineers, through personnel managers, accountants to IT experts. We will also create more jobs for graduates.
SME: You say you have already started recruiting. How do you search for employees?
RP: We are still only in an initial phase of recruitment for leading positions and we only plan to launch the advertisement campaigns promoting the jobs in Amazon. We are looking for people with analytical thinking from various professional fields and expertises. One of the most important factors will be the will to develop their personality.
SME: How much will people earn?
RP: We don’t publish the salary conditions at top positions. However, I can tell that they are strongly competitive and accompanied by benefits, including employee shares, a starting bonus, health and dental insurance, life and injury insurance and a supplementary pension plan. We also adjust the salaries every year to make them attractive.
SME: There are often reports that Amazon employees protest due to low salaries and bad working conditions. But you say you will create attractive conditions.
RP: We respect the personal rights of each of our workers to be a member of a trade union and we will continue in direct dialogues with our employees regardless of whether they are members of a trade union or not.
We sincerely believe that this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our staffers. We will always call on our employees to approach their managers directly with impulses, comments and questions they are dealing with.
SME: How much do you plan to invest in Slovakia?
RP: We will not publish the amount. We bring advanced hardware and software solutions to Slovakia and we have already created more than 850 jobs in our Bratislava-based offices. I can assure you our investment is significant.
SME: Have you also asked the government for investment aid? If yes, for how much?
RP: Amazon hasn’t received any financial support from the Slovak government. We, however, are very thankful for the support we receive from the state and regional institutions. Thanks to them, Slovakia is a very attractive location for investors.
SME: What kind of support from state institutions are you talking about?
RP: We positively evaluate the involvement of the government in the processes that preceded the investment. For an investment like ours it is crucial to secure quick deciding processes and clear instructions from offices for requirements and standards.
We also welcome the support of the government in easing our recruitment activities and collaboration with universities.
SME: There was also information that you will open some brick-and-mortar shops. What is the situation like now?
RP: They are called Amazon Go. It is a new type of shops without cash registers. We have created the most modern technology so customers don’t have to wait in queues.
They only need to use our application Amazon Go to enter the shop, take the product they want and leave. No queues, no cash registers. Amazon Go is currently open for Amazon employees in Seattle and is expected to be publicly accessible later this year.
SME: Do you plan to open any such shops in Europe, or directly in Slovakia?
RP: Not for now.
SME: The closest warehouse for Slovaks who want to order some goods is currently situated in Germany. Do you plan to open another one in Europe?
RP: Slovak customers can order goods from any of our websites and it will be delivered in two-four days in the case of an express order. All our centres in Europe are part of the European network and take care of customers across Europe.
SME: You currently offer free transport if customers make an order exceeding €39. Why did you choose such an action?
RP: Our more-than-20-year obsession with customers made us realise that the consumers primarily focus on three things: price, selection and comfort. Thus we try to offer the broadest selection of goods for the best prices and the quickest delivery. This is the reason why we offered Slovaks free delivery and shortened the waiting time.
SME: Is one of the reasons for introducing these changes due to fear of other e-shops?
RP: We don’t pay attention to our competition, we focus only on our customers. It’s our philosophy.
SME: One of the reports published in connection with Amazon in the past suggested that the parcels could be delivered by drones. Has this service started?
RP: The first delivery by drone took place in December 2016 in the United Kingdom. The customer received the ordered goods 13 minutes after making an order.
SME: Does it mean that no other drone delivery has taken place since then or that you now regularly use drones?
RP: We have development centres Prime Air in the USA, the UK, Austria and Israel. Currently we are testing vehicles at several international locations.
SME: Do you plan to spread this kind of delivery to other countries? Is it possible that drones will also deliver orders to Slovak customers?
RP: We are negotiating with regulators and lawmakers in several countries, in order to make Prime Air available for all customers across the globe. We will continue in our efforts.
SME: Amazon is currently one of the better-robotised companies. Is it possible that in, let’s say five years, people will be mostly replaced by robots?
RP: Employees of Amazon really work in a technologically developed environment. The technologies, however, should first of all help. I can thus say that our employees work hand in hand with technologies and the employment has grown everywhere we have introduced mechanisation. This year we will create 15,000 new jobs in Europe, while we will continue investing in up-to-date technologies, including Amazon Robotics.
SME: So the scenario that in five, 10 or 15 years people will be replaced by robots is unrealistic?
SME: The wide-spread opinion is that robots will replace people, but you say that thanks to robotisation you create new jobs. How is this possible?
RP: The image of robots replacing people is a myth. Robots should help people at work and increase their effectiveness, not replace them. The robotics significantly makes the everyday tasks of our employees easier and enables them to put added value into their work. We still employ new people in our centres.
One of the positive examples is EWR (New Jersey), where we have thousands of robots, but the centre employs the most employees in the whole North-American network. The core of all processes in Amazon is people, and this won’t change.
Only in this way we will be able to continue in innovations and development of new technologies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency, and also to secure the highest-quality standard for our customers.
SME: Will employees in Slovakia also work with robots?
RP: Our centre in Sereď will be the biggest and most modern reverse logistics centre Amazon has. It will not use the Amazon Robotics technologies, but rather various hardware and software solutions implemented in our processes.
SUB: Why won't Amazon Robotics be used in Slovakia?
RP: The Amazon technology isn’t adapted for use in the reverse logistics centres. We use the automation to reduce the volume of manual work, such as lifting and carrying, instead. The advanced electronics are able to effectively test and repair the returned products.
SME: Do you currently shop via Amazon?
RP: I’ve been Amazon’s customers for more than 15 years. I don’t shop in Amazon because I work there, even if this could be a sufficient reason. I use Amazon for its good selection, good prices and great comfort.
SME: What was the last thing you bought?
RP: I bought a book titled, My Favourite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris. It is a great book, it reminds me of Robert Crumb’s work.