Whole Foods CEO hints at a more Amazon-like approach to company culture

Love the company or hate it, Whole Foods has a history of treating its employees pretty well, or at least better than the competition. The high-end grocery store gives its employees paid time off and benefits, and has salary transparency. 

Based on comments from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, the company’s attitude toward its employees may change, thanks to its new owner, Amazon. In a town hall meeting with employees that was just transcribed in an SEC filing, Mackey was asked how the company’s partnership with its team members would change. His answer was cryptic at best. 

He said that Amazon was great at being “customer-centric,” and that Whole Foods sometimes had “a little bit too much team member focus at the expense of customers.” And he now wants Whole Foods to follow Amazon’s lead and “put customers first in everything they do.”

How that looks in practice is anyone’s guess. But it seems Whole Foods may begin to focus a little less on its employees. It’s also worth mentioning that Amazon is not exactly perceived as a bastion of pro-employee values. 

Here’s the full quote:

One of the things they do better than us, they are more customer-centric than we are. They really are. And one of my takeaways is that, by God, we’re gonna become as customer-centric as Amazon. We’re gonna— we’re gonna— we’re gonna import their passion about that.

Because I think, sometimes, our company’s gone a little bit too much team-member focus at the expense of our customers. And that’s one definite evolution that’s gonna happen. I love the passion these guys have around the customer. They put the customer first in everything they do and think backwards. And— we— we’re gonna be the same way.

Disclosure: Joe Mansueto, owner of Mansueto Ventures, which publishes Fast Company, sits on Whole Foods’ board.