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"As an employer, part of our role, I think, is to understand what the knowledge, skills, and abilities are for the jobs that we have today. And where are those trends taking us so that we can help people stay current." Ardine Williams, Amazon's Vice President of Workforce Development, in a conversation with Lessons Earned Podcast.
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In the fast-paced world of e-commerce and technology, Amazon stands tall as a colossus. But beyond its customer-centric approach and technological innovations, lies a less-sung yet equally impressive feat: its commitment to employee training and development. Amazon isn't just selling products; it's investing in people.
For three years in a row, Amazon has been crowned as the number 1 "best workplace to grow your career" in the US by LinkedIn.
And it's no surprise considering their comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to L&D, emphasizing every Amazon employee's personal and professional growth.
Through programs like Career Choice, Amazon proves that it values its employees' present contributions and aims to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed for long-term success and fulfillment.
This case study will delve deeply into Amazon's employee learning and progression.
We will examine the company's various initiatives and methods, guaranteeing that staff stay up-to-date with the latest technology advancements.
We'll also talk about how these initiatives have contributed to the successes of not only the individuals but also the organization in its entirety.
And, the best part, we also share a step-by-step implementation guide for everything Amazon nails in their L&D strategy.
Amazon places a strong emphasis on learning and development to ensure the growth and development of their employees.
Amazon's Learning & Development team isn't just about traditional training. They're on a mission to enhance the day-to-day lives of their people, bringing about changes that benefit both the employees and the customers.
Initiatives like Career Choice, Amazon Technical Academy, Machine Learning University, and apprenticeships offer professional growth and development avenues and create a culture of continuous learning.
"The Learning & Development team [...] design[s] and deliver[s] learning programs to guide and support employees' career paths inside Amazon, and implement improvements that make a real difference for both our workers and our customers." Amazon Jobs.
Let's analyze the key elements that exemplify Amazon's commitment to employee learning, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
"We want to make it easy for people to have access to the skills they need to grow their careers. [...] we're committing more than $1.2 billion to provide free education and skills training opportunities to more than 300,000 of our own employees in the US to help them secure new, high-growth jobs." Amazon, Our Upskilling Commitments.
Amazon provides upskilling for all employees. There will be something for everyone, whether entry-level, mid-seniority, technical, or non-technical.
We selected some programs showcasing Amazon's diverse learning and upskilling offerings.
The Amazon Technical Academy program upskills Amazon employees aspiring to become software engineers.
It offers training in essential skills and has placed over 95% of program graduates into software development engineer roles within Amazon.
The program aims to demystify software engineering skills and make them accessible to participants from diverse backgrounds.
Graduates come from various professional and personal backgrounds, reflecting the program's intentional accessibility.
"There is a huge need for software developers, and not just at Amazon. This program helps fill that gap that exists in industry right now." Ashley Rajagopal, Program manager of Amazon Technical Academy.
The program focuses on combining instructor-led, project-based learning with real-world applications. Amazon partners with online training providers to offer its curriculum outside of Amazon.
These partnerships aim to provide more individuals with industry-leading software engineering skills. The program supports career advancement and provides a pathway for employees to transition into technical roles.
Certified by the US Department of Labor, the Amazon Technical Apprenticeship program offers paid classroom training and apprenticeships to veterans and their spouses. The program helps participants gain valuable skills through a paid training course and on-the-job training to best prepare them for careers at Amazon.
Participants can choose between multiple career paths, for example, cloud support associate, technical sales, support engineer, and software development engineer.
Amazon's AWS Grow Our Own Talent initiative provides on-the-job training and job placement opportunities, particularly in Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers. The program supports employees with non-traditional experience to gain on-the-job tech training and development.
The program is open to people with little or no relevant work experience and requires no college degree. It offers participants a combination of on-the-job training and placement opportunities.
Amazon's Surge2IT aims to advance entry-level IT employees to higher-paying technical roles through tuition-free education and training.
The program offers a broad scope of skills training, including topics such as:
The program also includes a module focused on leadership and professional development, equipping participants with the knowledge on:
Surge2IT is a self-service program comprising 40 hours of content so participants can learn at their own pace.
The program is interactive, with no deadline. However, Amazon learning experts recommend completing all self-paced learning resources within a year.
Amazon's Machine Learning University helps employees with a tech background gain skills in machine learning, which is critical for customer innovation.
The program consists of six-week modules requiring only half to one full day of participation a week, offering graduate-school-level training.
"What we're doing is helping prepare our workforce for the next wave of technology that Amazon is investing in." Bree Al-Rashid, Manager of the MLU team.
MLU enjoys high popularity among Amazon staff due to the program's ability to remove barriers that often prevent mid-career professionals from attending graduate school:
"Career Choice is one way we help people think big about their careers, and we offer training across a wide variety of skills needed for high-demand fields." Darcie Henry, Vice President of Global Human Resources for Amazon Operations.
Career Choice is an innovative Amazon program designed to upskill employees interested in pursuing a future outside of Amazon.
"Career mobility is a large part of what makes Amazon's culture unique. Whether employees want to move upward, leverage transferable skills in a new role, or build a career in an entirely new industry, those opportunities are available to employees at all levels. Amazon employees understand that growth means more than promotions or vertical jumps. It includes non-traditional growth paths, such as the ability to develop new skills, explore new roles, and build and manage teams of all sizes." About Amazon, Workplace.
The Amazon Career Choice program pays up to 95% of tuition and associated fees for courses at accredited schools that lead to vocational certifications or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees in the five eligible fields of study:
Employees can unlock the gateway to today's most sought-after careers, such as commercial driver training (CDL), computer-aided design, machine tool technology, dental hygiene, nursing, and more.
One of the program's key features is the availability of on-site classrooms, making it convenient for associates to attend classes without leaving work early or using their days off.
The Career Choice program collaborates with over 200 education providers across the United States, providing opportunities for college education, industry certifications, language proficiency, and high school completion.
"I worked in a warehouse setting for years but knew I wanted to help people and had been curious about healthcare. In just nine months, I became a certified clinical medical assistant while working at Amazon in Tracy, California, thanks to Career Choice.
A career in healthcare would have been difficult to obtain without tuition support from Amazon and an internship opportunity to apply my new skills. For anyone thinking about it, you only have something to gain from participating in the Career Choice program." Career Choice graduate Patricia Soto, certified medical assistant and former Amazon operations employee.
Through its Career Choice program, Amazon fully funds college tuition, high school diplomas, GEDs, and ESL proficiency certifications for frontline employees, including those with as little as three months of tenure. The program also covers books and fees.
"By delivering training in high-demand career paths, we are proud to give eligible employees the tools they need to make a move and pursue their career aspirations beyond Amazon." Amazon Upskilling 2025 Report.
Amazon also offers three education programs focused on data center maintenance and technology, IT, user experience, and research design.
The company aims to support its employees in growing their careers. Over 80,000 employees worldwide have already participated in Career Choice.
"By providing that training and adding it to the work experience, we provide a career ladder. Now, a large number of our employees—400,000 in the US—work across our fulfillment center network, and in many cases, there aren't the career opportunities within the company for those folks.
And so by providing something like Career Choice, we create a career path for people, whether it's inside the company or outside." Ardine Williams, Amazon's Vice President of Workforce Development, in an interview with FRONTLINE PBS.
Amazon Pathways is a leadership development program for candidates pursuing a master's degree (or doctorate in some countries) or with a military background.
"Having started businesses on my own in the past, I know that the best way to learn a business is to work your way up from the bottom. The only training program that I was truly excited about was Amazon." Eyal, Fulfillment Center Senior Operations Manager, quoted in Amazon, Leadership Development & Training.
As part of the Pathways program, participants can reach senior management within Amazon Operations in just five years. The pathway career progression includes 3 steps:
"Through a series of intense, progressively challenging opportunities in the core of our established operations network, we will stretch your leadership capacity to its full potential. The business lessons you learn, and credibility you develop will benefit you over the rest of your career and prepare you for future executive leadership opportunities." Amazon Pathways job opening.
In response to the rapidly changing needs of employers and employees in the post-pandemic workplace, Amazon has been leading the way in offering a diverse range of programs and opportunities.
These initiatives aim to attract and engage employees by providing top-quality learning and development experiences.
A recent survey conducted by Workplace Intelligence in collaboration with Amazon sheds light on the importance of skills development and career advancement in the eyes of workers across various industries:
These fears and concerns explain why 89% are motivated to improve their skills, and 76% noted that the pandemic increased their motivation. Plus, 83% consider skill improvement a top priority, and 88% already put significant time and effort into this endeavor.
Amazon knows that people want to learn new skills and improve their options for career growth. By training existing employees, Amazon proactively fills skill gaps, especially in technical and leadership areas.
Instead of relying solely on external recruitment for specialized roles and skill sets, Amazon cultivates these abilities internally, creating a more resilient and versatile workforce.
"The company can't hire machine-learning specialists fast enough to keep up with all the opportunities to make machine-learning a core part of its voice, vision, data, robotics, and decision systems. The solution: give Amazon technical employees a way to gain machine-learning skills." Amazon, MLU.
The upskilling commitments, in particular, ensure that Amazon's workforce remains adaptable and skilled in the face of technological advancements.
"The investment is a large-scale experiment in whether companies can remake their existing workforces to fit a fast-changing technological world. [...] But with unemployment low and workers scarce, companies like Amazon feel pressure to look internally to fill their labor needs." Ben Casselman & Adam Satariano, Amazon's Latest Experiment: Retraining Its Work Force, The New York Times.
By addressing skill shortages internally and preparing its workforce for future technological challenges, Amazon's learning and development strategy is a model for other organizations facing similar challenges in talent management and technology adaptation.
74% of Millennial and Gen Z employees will likely quit within the next year due to lacking skills development opportunities.
In today's employee-driven job market, providing support for skills development during the workday and offering better learning benefits are crucial for companies to stay competitive in talent acquisition and retention.
Eric Adams, VP of Talent Management and Compensation at Amazon, emphasizes the importance of skills development, career advancement, and professional mobility as essential elements for recruiting and retaining top talent, revealing the strategic importance of L&D in Amazon's long-term plans:
"The past few years have shown that skills development, career advancement and professional mobility are no longer nice-to-haves but are the key to recruiting and retaining top talent across our workforce. We continue to innovate on our many upskilling and development programs, and provide new opportunities for our employees and potential employees who are looking to build their careers at Amazon."
As one of the largest private employers in the US, Amazon recognizes its responsibility in shaping the job market.
As a result, upskilling and career growth programs go beyond their internal workforce. Their Career Choice program prepares employees for new roles in their communities outside Amazon.
"As the second largest private employer in the US, we have a role to play in creating good jobs. And for us, we believe jobs — good jobs — comprise three things: A good starting wage [...] access to egalitarian benefits from day one, so that's mental health, medical, vision, paid family leave, and the opportunity to add skills to experience because we know that when you add skills to experience, you open doors for people to continue on a career trajectory.
And we do that whether the jobs are at Amazon, or in the case of our Career Choice program, those jobs exist outside of the company." Ardine Williams, Amazon's Vice President of Workforce Development, in an interview with wbur.
Amazon's unique culture embraces career mobility as a vital aspect of employee growth. Whether employees seek upward movement, transferable skills in new roles, or even career shifts to different industries, Amazon offers opportunities at all levels.
As a result, Amazon's commitment is not only to create jobs but also to ensure these are pathways for long-term career development and personal growth.
By training thousands in in-demand skills, Amazon enhances the career prospects of its employees within the company and prepares them for higher-paying opportunities in the broader job market.
This approach reflects Amazon's dedication to advancing employee careers, contributing to local communities, and setting a benchmark for corporate responsibility in workforce development.
"Great jobs not only pay people and help provide them with the benefits for themselves and their families, but they also help create a career path.
And I think the piece that I'm incredibly proud about at Amazon is that where we experiment and do things like the Amazon Technical Academy, which prepares people without a software development degree to become software development engineers and to thrive in those roles and to do it in about nine months.
And we have trained thousands of people in skills that are in demand in local communities, in jobs that pay more than we do. And we are helping people get onto a career ladder and advance." Ardine Williams, Amazon's Vice President of Workforce Development, in an interview with wbur.
Amazon's learning and development (L&D) programs stand out in various ways, showcasing a commitment to nurturing and empowering its workforce.
From comprehensive training initiatives to innovative learning platforms, Amazon prioritizes employee growth and development.
In 2023, LinkedIn hailed Amazon as the most coveted employer, attributing this status to the company's robust skills development programs and potential for employee progression.
Here are the key aspects highlighting how Amazon's L&D efforts distinguish the company in the corporate landscape.
Amazon's culture emphasizes continuous learning and adaptation, encouraging employees to regularly update their skills and knowledge to stay competitive and innovative.
Amazon makes it easy for employees who want to upskill by offering days off to attend various learning programs and the flexibility to adjust their work schedule to juggle their jobs and training.
Amazon's programs cater to a wide range of career paths, from technical roles in software and IT to positions in operations and leadership.
The diversity in training opportunities benefits employees from various departments and levels.
Amazon employs innovative learning methods, including digital platforms, hands-on training, and project-based learning. This variety of teaching techniques caters to different learning styles and helps to impart skills effectively.
There are also vast opportunities for on-the-job learning, further driving knowledge retention and enabling employees to get positions in the field they are studying or upskilling for.
Amazon offers multiple apprenticeships to their people. Apprentices are paid, full-time employees who typically transition into full-time roles upon completing their programs and attaining required certifications.
For some of our apprenticeships, Amazon includes on-the-job learning hours and professional development through team networking and mentorship.
"These programs not only equip individuals with essential skills and certifications but also cultivate a culture of continuous learning, innovation, and inclusivity. [...] [A]pprenticeships are far more than mere pathways to jobs. They serve as powerful catalysts for fostering long-term careers, propelling both personal growth and the broader advancement of the industry." Jennifer Carlson, co-founder and executive director of Apprenti, Amazon's partner for administering the apprenticeship program.
The training programs align closely with Amazon's business objectives, such as expanding AWS services or enhancing their operations network.
This alignment ensures that the skills employees acquire directly apply to their roles within the company.
Plus, by investing in employee growth and development, Amazon enhances its workforce capabilities and boosts employee satisfaction and retention.
All upskilling programs offered by Amazon have a vital element: they prepare people for in-demand, future-oriented jobs.
"In many cases, folks who offer education benefits will say, 'Hey, we're going to offer you this education and we wish you the best of luck. We start with the end job in mind, and then we build backward from there." Tammy Thieman, Director of Amazon Career Choice.
This approach ensures that career growth is always front and center and that these programs are curated and created in a way that empowers employees to pursue the next steps in their careers.
"It's really the whole pipeline that we're thinking about to ensure that the education is doing what the participant is really wanting, which is taking the next step in their career," adds Tammy.
Gallup's The American Upskilling Study research reveals that upskilling opportunities are disproportionately offered to the highest-skilled workers.
Many of those who want it most — those who express the greatest desire to learn skills for a new career and have the least confidence in their current skills — are the least likely to have benefited from upskilling programs or to be employed in companies that provide them.
This does not match the reality at Amazon. Many Amazon L&D initiatives emphasize upskilling individuals from non-traditional backgrounds, demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusivity in the workforce.
Zavvy lets you run a people development process like Amazon.
The process is simple. Here is a step-by-step breakdown.
Zavvy's skills matrix allows you to understand your people's strengths and skill gaps.
This tool establishes a common understanding of skills at team, department, and company levels, which aligns with Amazon's focus on skill development and career progression.
Amazon strongly emphasizes learning and development at all levels to ensure that growth is a constant pursuit for all its employees.
You can do the same using Zavvy's Journeys & Learning library
Zavvy Journeys offer the means to create engaging learning experiences for staff members. You will boost knowledge retention and participation with learning content, videos, messages, surveys, quizzes, tasks, and group activities.
Moreover, you can personalize the journey according to individual employees' requirements and preferences: add videos for those who are more visual or text for those who prefer going through the written material.
You can create your own training resources and add them to the library for your employees or choose from the vast gallery of training resources curated by Zavvy's team of learning scientists.
This wide selection of learning resources mirrors Amazon's commitment to providing diverse and comprehensive training opportunities.
You can assign training journeys to your people or allow them to shop around and self-enroll in whatever peaks their interest and growth prospects.
You can either assign Zavvy journeys to employees or publish them to the library so that employees can enroll themselves or do both.
Use Zavvy's growth plans to document all the steps your people are taking toward upskilling and career development.
The best part is that growth plans add extra context to your feedback reviews (just enable a toggle, and you're good to go) and 1:1 conversations.
This way, growth can stay front and center of your talent management and engagement initiatives.
With Zavvy's career progression frameworks, your people will know what's expected of them to reach the next level in their careers.
More than just describing key competencies and role expectations for each level, you can use career paths to pinpoint the critical training resources or certificates for each role. You can add both mandatory and optional resources. In this way, your people can proactively prepare for the next step in their careers.
Amazon invests in developing its managers through specialized programs focusing on skills and essential leadership qualities like enhanced decision-making and the ability to motivate teams.
Like Amazon, you can leverage Zavvy to enable your managers to take on the role of coaches rather than just administrators by providing them with tools for development.
With Zavvy's training features, workshops, self-paced learning journeys, and other resources can be easily created for managers, fostering peer learning in a format that is easy to digest via email or daily Slack nudges.
➡️ Check out how Zavvy helped Freeletics create a training routine for their leaders.
You can filter our training library by competence. Use the "leadership" filter and discover a sea of possibilities for developing your leaders.
Zavvy streamlines the people development process by combining multiple tools into one integrated solution. This approach is crucial for replicating Amazon's L&D strategy, where multiple aspects of learning, development, and employee progression are seamlessly integrated.
And with Zavvy AI, you can kickstart strategic processes in just a few clicks.
No other solution will allow you to launch and run impactful people development that connects skills and competencies, feedback, growth, and career progression at this speed.
📅 Take the first step in enabling the future of people development with Zavvy. Book a demo with our consultants.