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📦 Amazon’s out of workers
June 21, 2022
Read to the end for “peecycling,” a how-to book by Picasso, and a meme.
A country singer is suing Mariah Carey for $20m, citing her song “All I Want for Christmas is You” infringes on copyrights from his 1989 song of the same name. Despite a shared title, the songs don’t sound much alike.
In today’s email:
Is Amazon out of workers?
By the numbers: Buzz Lightyear, teacher shortages, and more.
Peecycling: It’s exactly what it sounds like.
Around the web: Sunscreen surprises, how to market company culture, and more cool internet finds.
🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to learn about why Amazon thinks weed could help solve its imminent staffing problem, and how one Amazon Robotics engineer sees the company’s robo-plans playing out.
The big idea
Amazon’s unique hiring problem, explained
Over the years, Amazon’s obsession with customers has helped it scale its world-class delivery services. (Who wouldn’t want their groceries dropped off in 13 minutes?)
But providing exceptional customer service hinges on having the workers to carry it through, and Amazon may be running out of them, per Recode.
A leaked internal memo…
… suggests the company could run out of candidates to staff its warehouses by 2024. The problem is twofold:
Rapid hiring: Amazon’s workforce doubled from ~800k to ~1.6m employees from 2019 to 2021.
Rapid turnover: Many Amazon jobs are viewed as transitory — the company churns through ~3x more workers than competitors. (Is Bezosism to blame?)
If you’re wondering how it’s even possible for an HR department to hire so many people so fast, you’re spot on — Amazon workers have been hired (and fired) without talking to a single human.
Rapid hiring and firing…
… may have put Amazon in this mess, but the company has options to get out of it, like:
Relaxing the rules: In places with a higher risk of worker shortage, Amazon’s been more lenient about its stringent workplace policies.
Increasing pay: Internal research at Amazon found that every dollar added to its minimum wage attracts 7% more workers into its hiring pool. Following that logic, an increase of $1.50/hr would extend Amazon’s runway by another three years.
Better planning: Amazon’s HR division believes the company can improve the situation by ensuring new warehouses have adequate local labor pools.
Another possible solution? Doubling down on automation.
… are nothing new to Amazon, which purchased manufacturer Kiva Systems in 2012 — a deal that’s reportedly saved Amazon billions.
The company has an internal goal of increasing productivity by 25% by 2024 strictly through improved automation.
By then, if current hiring trends continue, a robot-dominant workforce may be Amazon’s only option.
Bounce back: Bitcoin prices rose above $20k for most of the day yesterday after dropping to $17.6k over the weekend.
Letter fallout: SpaceX fired employees involved in writing a letter that called Elon Musk’s tweeting and public behavior “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment.” The number of affected employees is unclear.
Big migration: TikTok said it moved all US user data to stateside servers run by Oracle. On a related note, leaked audio from internal ByteDance meetings revealed Chinese employees have had access to nonpublic data from US TikTok users as recently as January.
Snapchat+: Snap is reportedly running internal tests on Snapchat Plus, a premium subscription that would give users early access to new features.
eComm evolution: Rokupartnered with Walmart in an agreement that will allow users to purchase Walmart products through shoppable ads on their TVs using Roku Pay.
Going official: As your business grows and onboards workers, it may be time to consider incorporating it as an LLC or corporation. Check out the Hustle blog for a guide to registering your venture as a business owner.
Good news for the lactose intolerant: A new challenger in the plant-based milk space is here. WhatIf Foods uses bambara nut, an African legume high in protein, fiber, and minerals. #ecommerce-retail
Graphic: We hear a lot about wind and solar power, but there are five major types of renewable energy. Here’s a visual explainer. #clean-energy
Mmm: Researchers from Switzerland and China partnered on a machine learning-based method that teaches robots how to stir-fry like the pros. #emerging-tech
Lawsuits: As crypto values plummet, numerous class-action suits are targeting celebs for promoting alleged schemes. But, as the Guardianexplains, whether they can be held liable is tricky. #fintech-crypto
Meta now sells digital outfits from designer labels like Prada and Balenciaga for metaverse avatars. Later, Meta will open the marketplace to other digital fashion designers. #big-tech
By the numbers
Digits: 15-minute delivery, Lightyear, and teacher shortages
1) The economics behind 15-minute deliveries are bad. Jokr, which raised $430m in venture capital, is now shutting down US operations. Internal data shows the company was losing $159 per order back in August 2021.
2) Not quite to infinity and beyond. Pixar’s Lightyear landed a $51m opening weekend at the box office, below expectations and coming second to Jurassic World: Dominion ($58.7m). It managed to beat out Top Gun: Maverick ($44m), but this was the film’s fourth weekend in theaters, so…
3) BREAKING: America’s school systems. Approximately 300k teachers left their jobs between February 2020 and May 2022. A recent poll shows 55% of teachers plan to leave education sooner than originally planned, up from 37% last year. And 44% of public schools reported teacher vacancies this year.
4) Small businesses owners are reportedly upset that Google will start charging ~$6/mo. per user for its Workspace tools (e.g., Gmail, Docs, Calendar) this month after years of free use.
5) The Airbus A380 — a double-decker plane with a 262-foot wingspan — is mounting a comeback. In June 2020, airlines handled 43 A380 flights. This month, ~4k flights are planned, with ~6k planned for January 2023, equivalent to ~60% of pre-pandemic levels.
Uh, what is peecycling?
It might sound weird, but people have been nourishing crops with human urine for centuries.
Why? We ingest nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, then excrete them. Plants need them.
Fabien Esculier — a researcher with France’s OCAPI program, which studies the management of human nutrient excretion — toldEuronews that human urine could replace synthetic fertilizers.
Urine as a fertilizer has several benefits
It’s less of a pollutant and typically cheaper than chemical fertilizer. Plus, collecting urine means not flushing it, thus not polluting watershedsand saving water.
The war in Ukraine and associated sanctions have also caused supply chain issues for farmers.
Russia exports ~20% of the world’s nitrogen fertilizers and, combined with Belarus, 40% of the world’s exported potassium, perBusiness Insider.
Human pee could replace 25% of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers worldwide, according to Prithvi Simha of Sanitation360, a Swedish company converting pee into fertilizer.
In Vermont, the Rich Earth Institute collects 10k+ gallons/yr. from volunteers who bottle it at home, then bring it to a “urine depot.”
In Sweden, Sanitation360 aims to collect 70k+ liters of urine in three years from waterless toilets. The urine is dried, pressed into pellets, and used to grow barley.
BTW: If you’re curious about peeing on your own plants, well, the Rich Earth Institute also has a guide for that.
AROUND THE WEB
🏪 On this day: In 1879, the F.W. Woolworth Great Five Cent Store opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania — the first in a chain of dime stores. Today, the Woolworth company is known as Foot Locker.
🌞 What? According to Wirecutter, there is no difference between baby and regular sunscreen. They just smell different.
🎧 Podcast: Eighty-eight percent of job seekers want a feel for a company’s culture before they apply. Marketer and author Yaagneshwaran Ganesh joins Work @ Life to discuss how to market your company culture to attract top talent.Listen now.
✏️ Art: Picasso made a series of how-to drawing books for his daughter, currently on view for the first time in Paris.
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