How Amazon’s (Talent) Data Insights Made me Giggle

I am not easily impressed. My mantra is, “Keep Calm and Carry On!” But, on Friday June 26th, 2015, at around 530 pm Eastern Daylight Time, I shouted “Wow!” out loud to no one in particular. I was impressed! delivered a box to my house, containing the black and the color ink cartridges (and some other items) I had ordered that same morning, and completely blew my mind!

I know what you are thinking, “You got excited over some ink cartridges?!?!” No… stay with me! Amazon delivered the items 4 hours after I ordered them; thanks to their new Same Day Delivery service for Prime members. I could stay at my desk, focused on client interests, and not be distracted by making a trip to the store.

(Talent) data is really powerful.

Just the day before, I had shared ideas about the power of (talent) data with a group of CHROs in a conversation entitled, How CHROs can Optimize C-Suite Influence Using Talent Analytics.” We talked about using data insights to drive innovation and how CHROs can be as impactful as CFOs and CMOs in using data insights to influence strategic business decisions. The Amazon delivery experience blew my mind because it was a perfect exemplar of how data insights can drive competitiveness.

I started thinking, “how did Amazon do that?!” I thought of all the decisions the company had to make, then build into an optimized, repeatable- yet-flexible model, so I could print my Power Point deck that Friday afternoon.

Surely Amazon had to answer a million questions before they rolled out this service. And, they no doubt depended on the power of data analytics to get the right/best answers. I started thinking about just one of those questions, and could see the iterative process required. Let’s say the question is, “In which cities should we offer Same Day Delivery?” Well, of course, Amazon would have to understand:

  • Which locations will offer the unique advantages of transportation ease, great weather, available workforce, etc., etc. so we can deliver Same Day, as promised? Where will we put these Distribution Centers (DCs)?
  • Which products will work for this model? What is the maximum weight? Maximum size?
  • Which manufacturers and distributors have the supply chain to ensure constant availability of these products?
  • What skills and other characteristics do we need in the employees to work in the various jobs in those DCs?”
  • What are the personality characteristics of candidates who are more likely to have high levels of engagement in these jobs?
  • Are humans or robots more accurate/effective in selecting the items from the DC shelves so customer get the product they ordered and not something else?
  • What is the minimum time from order to delivery we can support without increasing packing error and driver accidents?
  • How can we predict how many employees we need? And when we need them?

And many, many, many more insights would be needed to address these and even more complex decisions before a DC location could be selected. [Lucky for me, Tampa Bay, with its Amazon DC in Ruskin, made the cut! And I recently learned by way of the magazine Forward Florida, that plans are afoot for the expansion of that center. How lucky can one girl be? Fall in love with a dress online in the morning, wear it to dinner that afternoon? The possibilities are endless.] But, I digress…

Talent decisions are business decisions; talent data is business data

Notice how those questions are a perfect mix of “business strategy” and “talent strategy?” You really can’t separate the human piece from the money piece. Someone at Amazon is analyzing talent data, tying that data to business data, and providing insights to support the business strategy. And the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Supply Chain executive and CHRO are surely using data insights in that way.

So, when I got my printer ink cartridge that Friday afternoon, I screamed “yippee!” out loud because (a) I was a delighted customer and (b) I could immediately think of all the ways talent data helped Amazon impress and delight me. I will buy more. And, data sometimes makes me giggle.

Do your (talent) data analytics help your company create delighted customers who giggle out loud? Tell me more about how you are using insights about human behavior to help build a business.


Forward Florida, June 2015. Etc. Business Brief / Logistics. Downloaded from on June 27th, 2015.
Photo credits:
AhaMoment Image:
Cute kid with questions image. / NI QIN