Amazon MENA: A supportive work culture vital for success

Especially in high-pressure moments
Amazon MENA: A supportive work culture vital for success
Bikram Walia, Director, Human Resources, Amazon MENA

In the next few weeks, e-commerce customers across the Middle East and North Africa will place their orders, as we enter our busiest shopping season. Their goods will be delivered at a speed that was difficult to imagine a few years ago.

Behind the fulfillment of those orders are thousands of dedicated and talented employees, each committed to ensuring customers are happy with the service they receive. And behind those employees is a supportive work culture at Amazon that drives collaboration, productivity, and innovation.

As we enter this peak period, which culminates post White Friday, I’m acutely aware of our responsibility here: to continue to nurture this inclusive culture that connects, values, and empowers every one of those employees. After all, it is our teams that power us through these peak periods and, as leaders, we must do all we can to support them.

Here are the cornerstones of culture that have set us up for success and enabled us to deliver on the customer promise, time and again.

1- Diversity fuels faster problem solving


This busy retail season brings exciting challenges, accompanied by added pressure. Building an inclusive and diverse culture infuses teams with a broad range of perspectives and opinions. These rich perspectives are valuable during peak times – when we are searching for smarter ways to deliver world-class service to our diverse customers. Our diverse and inclusive teams are the embodiment of these principles. Every year during the peak period, our employees discover and implement newer, safer, and more effective ways of fulfilling the customer promise. An inclusive culture empowers these employees to bring their genuine selves to work, share their perspectives openly and demonstrate ownership, thus unlocking the full potential of the team.

It’s been proven that diverse organizations open to different perspectives outperform their less-inclusive peers. Research by McKinsey has shown that businesses with more gender diversity at the senior level are 25% more likely to make above-average profits. Companies with the greatest ethnic and cultural diversity can have profits 36% above those of their peers.

One of our Leadership Principles, ‘Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer’, specifically asks: ‘Are my fellow employees growing and empowered? Are they ready for what’s next?’ and this is always top of mind for the Amazon leadership team. Challenging the status quo and discouraging groupthink (which constrains innovation and opportunity), is a key behavior that leaders need to demonstrate as role models. Leaders have to continually implement processes and structures that prevent organizational biases from stifling inclusion and diversity. Another key aspect is to give clarity on the purpose of the team and bring focus on team goals. A study by Ernst and Young found that clarity of team purpose enables better decision-making and performance, especially when the pressure is on.’s annual 11.11 sale returns from Nov. 10-12th


2- Leading with empathy builds high-trust, high-performing teams


Every interaction we have with employees is an opportunity to ‘Lead with Empathy’. It is vital for leaders to be empathetic and manage demanding moments, even when the pressure mounts. How employees respond in this situation is significantly influenced by a business’ leadership style and workplace culture. When the stakes are raised, leading with empathy really comes into its own and can make the difference between success and failure.

Busy periods are times for leaders to demonstrate self-awareness and empathetic behavior – to show employees they are aware of the demands, they understand their needs, feelings, and emotions, and most importantly, they can translate that understanding into actions that support them. Good leaders ensure any mistakes and operational failures become learning opportunities for the whole team.

Active listening is another essential skill for empathetic leaders –one that has enabled me to build meaningful connections with our teams, especially when they are going through challenging situations. One way in which we operate a ‘listening’ mechanism at scale is through the Connections tool, which gives an organizational-wide view of employee feedback on peak-preparedness.

3- Work-life harmony boosts productivity


There’s a third piece to this puzzle: work-life harmony. An inclusive culture, with empathetic leadership and work-life harmony, are key to creating high-performing teams. Leaders that build high-performing teams recognize that family and social commitments are important for employees, especially during stressful moments. These leaders attempt to role model by setting healthy boundaries, recognizing the long-term impact of their actions. They actively encourage employees to take time off pre and post peak season and rotate employees through assignments to ensure a balanced distribution of work. They take an interest not only in what drives people at work, but what motivates and inspires them outside of work too.

After the upheavals of the pandemic, employees have come to expect a more fulfilling and rewarding experience in the workplace. Corporate culture is central to delivering on these expectations. A truly inclusive culture that welcomes and nurtures all employees will ensure the best talent can be recruited to build high-performing teams.

When we get it right, and we live our values of being empathetic, supportive, and inclusive leaders, our people will rise to the challenge of peak periods. They will thrive under pressure and deliver the excellent service our customers demand.

In short, everyone wins.