Will Amazon’s Acquisition of Whole Foods Market Drive it Off the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For List?

In the wake of this week’s announcement of Amazon’s Whole Foods Market acquisition for $13.7B, I started thinking about potential cultural and organizational issues this might ultimately create for the newly acquired company.

Take a look at this year’s Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For List for 2017. You will note that Whole Foods Market is ranked 58th. They are proud of the fact that they have been on the list every year since it was started in 1998. That’s a great run of 19 years. Interestingly, there are three other grocery chains on the 2017 Forbes Top 100 list including, Wegmans Food Markets (2), Publix (21), and Nugget Market (30). These other grocery chains are regional superstars.

Amazon acquired Zappos.com in 2009. According to most reports, Amazon has allowed Zappos.com to act as a separate company, keeping its unique culture intact. In fact, this was reiterated, in a 2015 WSJ article featuring Tony Hsieh (CEO), “Zappos CEO Distances Shoe Retailer Culture from Amazon.”

What is interesting to note is that Zappos.com was on the Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work for list from 2009 until 2015. It didn’t make the list in 2016 or 2017. During the years Zappos.com was on the list it ranked as high as 6th and as low as 86th in 2015. While I am sure Zappos.com does work hard to maintain its cultural distance, it seems unfathomable that some level of cultural creep wouldn’t occur from Amazon.

If you remember, 2015 was the year the New York Times wrote a blistering account of what it was like to work at Amazon, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace.” It created a tremendous amount of churn and debate on social media and other places. So, maybe there was some level of “guilt by association” for all of Amazon’s companies, including Zappos.com.

Only time will tell, but depending on how Amazon’s pervasive culture and Whole Foods Markets’ Culture of Interdependence, are able to assimilate, we might see Whole Foods Market exit the coveted Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, where it has been for nearly two decades.

What do you think? And do you think if the Whole Foods Markets marriage is a success, Amazon will go after the regional grocery darlings also?

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