Amazon Ads Boss Asks New, Ambiguous, Question on Performance Reviews – Business Insider


Every employee in Amazon’s rapidly growing advertising business is now required to answer one additional question on their annual performance review: How did you perform against your key objectives this year?
Amazon’s advertising boss Paul Kotas mandated his team to answer this “simple yet thought-provoking question” through Forte, a peer-review program used during performance reviews, according to a January email, obtained by Insider.
Forte, which is one component of the broader performance review process, was primarily designed to receive feedback from other colleagues and managers through questions about each employee’s “super powers” and “growth ideas.” With the new question — which applies to Kotas’s team that spans advertising, the IMDb video unit, and the secretive Grand Challenge research lab — employees get a chance to highlight their accomplishments and share their own thoughts about performance. 
Kotas said every employee should include up to five specific projects they worked on in the past year and any relevant links in their responses to help managers better understand their work.
“I believe that providing your perspective on your contributions is an essential input to performance reviews. Doing so helps facilitate a more productive Forte conversation with your manager, as well as a clearer understanding of expectations and steps to accelerate your career growth,” Kotas wrote in the email.
Amazon’s spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The change is the latest twist to Amazon’s controversial performance review system. Amazon employees have long-complained about the ambiguous process, saying it gave managers undue influence and control over their employment status, with little recourse. Most employees are put on a curve, with low performers funneled into opaque performance improvement plans, as part of a plan to weed out a fixed percentage of the workforce every year.
Last year, Amazon rolled out a number of changes to its performance review, including a new 3-scale system to Forte, which gave individual ratings of “needs improvement,” “achieves,” and “exceeds.” Some employees questioned the effectiveness of this system, given it has little impact on their compensation, as Insider previously reported.
The new question comes at a time when Amazon’s advertising team is enjoying unprecedented success. In 2021, advertising generated over $31 billion in sales, up roughly 45% from the previous year. Amazon is now the third-largest digital ad publisher in the US, behind Google and Facebook, according to eMarketer. Amazon broke out ad sales for the first time last quarter, signifying the maturity of the business.
It’s not the first time Kotas tried to get his team to answer this question. Last year, Kotas ran the same pilot program, but saw “low adoption and low feedback,” his email said. It is now being more strictly enforced, as every manager is required to discuss this portion of Forte during individual performance review sessions, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“Due to this, ads, IMDb, Grand Challenge leaders have committed to implementing this additional process component in Q1 2022 as we believe it is a great way for employees to share their top accomplishments with their manager and get feedback on it,” Kotas wrote.
Do you work at Amazon? Got a tip?
Contact reporter Eugene Kim via the encrypted messaging apps Signal or Telegram (+1-650-942-3061) or email (ekim@insider.com).
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