“Please don’t take this offer” reads the first line of Amazon’s “Pay to Quit” proposition. The rest of the page explains how current Amazon warehouse employees can pocket cold, hard cash if they walk away from their posts and never look back. “Never looking back” is really part of the deal – employees that accept “The Offer” can never work at any Amazon facility or subsidiary again in their lifetime.
We’ve all heard of companies offering bonuses to their employees to incentivize certain behaviors (referring employees, staying at the company for [x] amount of years, meeting sales goals, etc.), but few of us have ever encountered a bonus for quitting. So, what’s the deal?
After Amazon acquired Zappos back in 2009 for an …ahem… small fee of $850 million, they took a page out of Zappos’ playbook by developing a similar program to one Zappos previously had in place. Employees working at Amazon’s fulfillment centers for one or more years receive an offer once a year if they quit their job, with the amount starting at $2,000 and increasing every year by $1,000 until it maxes out at $5,000.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos explains the goal of the program is to encourage employees to really think about what they want out of their careers. He’d prefer disengaged employees simply move on – as an employee remaining at a job they don’t want to be at is not beneficial to either the worker or the company employing them.
The exact reasoning behind limiting the offer to only Amazon warehouse employees is unknown, but it’s no secret Amazon has had a tumultuous relationship with its warehouse employees in the past. Workers have sued for overtime pay, time spent going through security screenings, and complained about unsafe working conditions – so the program may be a step Amazon is taking to “mend fences,” so to speak.
The Negative Financial Impact of Disengaged Employees
Research by Gallup uncovered that only 33% of employees in the U.S. were engaged in 2017 – and a previous estimate by the American research-based, global performance-management consulting company uncovered these kinds of employees are costing the country between $450-550 billion each year.
It’s safe to say a $5k payout would be worth it to Bezos to give disengaged, on-the-brink-of-quitting employees the extra push they need to seek employment elsewhere based on the potential financial havoc these kinds of employees cause to organization’s bottom lines. The money is easily recovered by no longer having to pay that employee's 401k, stock payouts, vacation pay, and other benefits. Additionally, if a more senior employee takes advantage of "The Offer," the next step of bringing in a new employee at an entry-level wage as replacement could also make up the cost of the quitting bonus distributed to the departing employee.
While it’s an interesting tactic, it’s unclear if other companies will follow suit and throw a few grand at their employees if they’re willing to go away and never come back.