HR LeadersTalk with Michael Weeks of Amazon

By: Drew Railton, CPHR

In every issue of PeopleTalk magazine we try to speak with an HR leader to get their thoughts on various HR related topics and pick their brain for some advice they may have for the next generation of HR stars who are just starting out in the profession.

In the winter issue, Drew Railton, CPHR caught up with Michael Weeks of Amazon.

Michael leads HR for the Amazon development offices based in downtown Vancouver, B.C., supporting the many Amazon products used and known around the world. He enjoys the speed and challenge of working for a global brand and the unique HR opportunities it provides.

Here is what Michael had to say.

Why did you choose HR or how did it choose you?

I originally set out to be an accountant, but quickly realized I didn’t have the patience. I worked for a few years driving a five tonne truck moving furniture when I was in college. Being on the road, I was acutely aware that I was the last point of contact for our valued customers and, as such, a pretty vital piece of the puzzle if we ever wanted repeat business.

The problem was that the company treated the employees quite poorly. Employees were talked down to from senior leadership, not trusted and generally not well supported when it came to safety—which is kind of important when you’re lifting 300 pound fridges! I saw firsthand the impact on the business when peers spoke about the company, and was witness to negative behaviours such as time theft and poor service among other things. The link from effective people management to business success was apparent. After that experience I signed up for the BCIT HR program and never looked back.

What was the breakout project or thing you did to really accelerate your career?

I’ve been fortunate to work in cultures that supported my growth. The most recent project was the development of an HR data analytics strategy. It started out simple enough, a proposal outlining what was needed to produce real-time access to quality data. I quickly discovered how much I had to learn. I built the case to hire the company’s first HR data scientist, oversaw an overhaul of our backend tech infrastructure and integrated the work into another initiative my team was driving at the same time—workforce planning. Ultimately, we were successful linking to our budgeting and strategic planning process and helping solve for recruiting capacity and delivery. Overall it was a two-plus year journey and an amazing learning experience, not to mention a great opportunity to bring my number crunching aspirations into HR.

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