Method

Accelerate the departure of unhappy employees

Created by : Amazon
Category : Dismissal
Last update : August 20, 2018

Obstacle

Needless to say, employees in companies all over the world are unhappy at their jobs but do not quit it because they don't have any incentives to do so, or feel like they don't have many other options.


Working at Amazon's warehouses and customer-service centers is not easy. The company asks a lot of its workers, asking them to work efficiently at a very fast pace. It is very demanding both physically and mentally, so many of them burn out. And having unhappy workers is detrimental to themselves and to the company as well.

Solution

Amazon offers employees who work at the company's warehouses and customer-service centers what they call "The Offer", which is a practice they adopted from Zappos, when Amazon bought Zappos in 2009. Even though both companies call it The Offer, they use it in different ways. At Zappos, the offer is made after the new employee's first week at the job, during the training period. At Amazon, they have modified the practice, offering employees money if they want to quit the company once per year. It's important to note that Amazon's "Pay to Quit" program does not apply to employees outside of the warehouses and customer-service centers.


It is a way of making it easier for unhappy employees to leave.

Steps

1

Offer your employees money to quit once per year, every year

Amazon asks its warehouse and customer-service center employees the following question: what do you prefer, staying in the company or accepting a $2000-$5000 bonus and leaving? Amazon offers $2000 to workers who have been at the company for a year. The amount offered increases by $1000 for every year worked, until the total reaches $5000, and it stays at $5000 for the following years.


Unlike at Zappos, Amazon employees receive this offer once every year, so they can reconsider whether they want to continue at the company or not year after year.

2

Make it clear that you don't want your employees to accept the offer

When employees receive the annual offer, the document they receive is entitled "Please Don't Take This Offer". Amazon doesn't want its employees to leave. The goal is not to have an extremely high turnover rate, but to give unhappy employees a chance to leave. Ideally, only a small percentage of employees want to leave.

3

Use the results as an evaluation tool

At Amazon, about 10% of its workers decide to accept the offer and quit their jobs. If the percentage increases considerably, it's a clear sign that something is wrong.

4

Use The Offer as a strategy to make your employees want to stay longer

Even though it might not seem obvious, The Offer can make employees who decide to reject it want to stay longer in the company.


Indeed, employees that reject the money to leave have made the decision that they like the company enough to stay for at least one more year. Then, they want their future behavior to be consistent with that decision. This can easily be explained by Dr. Robert Cialdini's "principle of consistency", one of the six principles of persuasion cited in his book Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion. According to this principle, if people commit to something, they are more likely to continue to respect that commitment because they believe that idea to be consistent with their self image.

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