Amazon and Walmart promise meaningful careers in their postings for low-wage jobs

“Grinch Bots” are especially active over the holidays, snatching up the season’s hottest gifts.
“Grinch Bots” are especially active over the holidays, snatching up the season’s hottest gifts.
Image: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

While Amazon and Walmart are regularly scrutinized over their workplace conditions for low-wage workers, recent job postings from the two retail giants paint a different story.

“Find a job you’ll love,” beckons an ad on for seasonal work packing orders for $15 to $16.15 an hour at an Amazon warehouse in Kent, Washington. “You’ll discover more than a job at Walmart,” pledges an ad seeking “remodel associates” at a Walmart Supercenter in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. The temporary position involves dismantling fixtures, stocking merchandise, setting up product displays, and cleaning remodeled departments; it pays $11 to $11.50 an hour.

Besides advertising opportunities for personal fulfillment, the job postings promise potential recruits a chance to be part of something bigger than themselves.

“Every year, millions of orders and gifts make their way through Amazon Fulfillment Centers, Sort Centers, Delivery Stations, and Prime Now Warehouses,” the Amazon posting notes. “Each Amazon team member is part of the magic of bringing orders to life.” And from Walmart’s ad: “This is a place where you can really make a difference in the lives of our customers, as well as your own.”

That two of America’s largest employers are using the language of purpose and meaning to attract workers isn’t surprising; companies increasingly recognize that feeling fulfilled at work is a major motivator, especially in industries prone to burnout. And it’s not just upwardly mobile, white-collar workers who crave a sense of fulfillment.

“Fostering careers and a successful, well-trained and engaged workforce is critically important to Walmart,” says a Walmart spokesperson, citing major investments in training and opportunities for employees to obtain affordable college degrees and carve out career paths (Walmart says it promoted more than 265,000 people last year to jobs with increased pay and responsibilities). Amazon, meanwhile, says it will pay up to 95% of tuition in courses related to in-demand fields such as game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming, and radiology, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to the person’s specific role at the company.

Both Amazon and Walmart also have taken recent steps to raise the floor on wages. But the juxtaposition of their recent job ads with what has long served as conventional wisdom about these two employers—Amazon has repeatedly come under fire for its allegedly poor treatment of low-wage workers while Walmart has been in damage control for years on low wages—is notable. Just compare their new recruitment efforts with this recent posting for a job at a Target warehouse: “Sweep, clear debris, break down boxes, build boxes, empty garbage pails, corrugate, paint the interior of the warehouse. Keep warehouse neat, tidy and in order,” it reads at its frilliest, followed by basic details about hours and pay.

Is Target’s lack of language about purpose and fulfillment a nod to reality, or a missed opportunity? It will be up to job seekers to decide.