what is the payoff

Business owners face many challenges, and among the many challenges they face is creating a productive and pleasant work environment.  Are your employees happy and committed to their jobs?  How do you know?  Are they really going to be honest with the boss if they are simply asked?  These are difficult questions to answer, but some companies may have found an unusual and effective way to answer them: Periodically offer to pay employees to quit.

Now at first glance, you may think this strategy foolhardy if not outright suicidal.  Do you really want to give your employees incentive to quit?  The answer may very well be yes because doing so can help you maintain a healthy work environment and provide you with honest feedback about how your employees view your company.  Let’s briefly examine the benefits of this strategy for both employer and employee.

From a business perspective, the most beneficial and obvious advantage of annually (or semi-annually) offering a bonus for leaving is that you make it more likely that unhappy people will leave.  This can be a positive development for the long-term health of your organization.  Internet giant Amazon has adopted this strategy, and as Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos noted in his letter to shareholders earlier this year, “In the long run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”  Successful organizations must strive to create a culture of success, and if people do not fit into that culture for whatever reason, it makes sense for them to leave.  The employees who take the offer may end up being happier, and the organization itself will be better able to maintain or create the cultural environment desired with the remaining employees and new hires.

Perhaps more importantly, businesses can use programs that incentivize employees to quit to gain honest feedback from their workers and instill a feeling of rededication and recommitment within the company and its people.  In essence, the program becomes an annual (or semi-annual) performance review of the company by the employees because employees are given an opportunity to really consider whether or not they can commit to another year of working for the organization and staying a part of the team.  If they choose to stay, they are showing a level of commitment to their coworkers and the goals of the company that should foster a greater sense of interest and pride in the success of the organization.

When one considers the benefits of offering pay to employees to quit, it should not be surprising that companies from Amazon to Zappos (the online retailer that pioneered this idea) are embracing this strategy.  On its face, the idea may seem counterintuitive, but implementing some form of this strategy may lead to a greater payoff in productivity and cultural unity for your organization down the road.  An important part of being a successful innovator and leader is having the right people behind you, and programs such as these can help make that happen.

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