Saturday, May 31, 2008

Zappos Makes It Pay to Quit

The online shoe retailer Zappos has an interesting option for new hires in its customer-service call center. After the first week of a four-week training program, you can take that week’s pay plus $1,000 and walk away. Yes, they will pay you $1,000 to quit.

Presumably, you take this offer if you realize the job isn’t going to work out. It’s like getting a bonus for making a mistake.

That’s the employee perspective. Now let’s look at Zappos’ angle.

10% of new hires take the money. Giving these people a reason to self-select themselves out saves Zappos the additional three weeks of training and avoids the marginal performance likely to follow until they move on.

And it saves far more if it removes bad hires who would otherwise never move on—the disgruntled employees who find it easier to stay and complain than get another job. $1,000 is nothing compared to the cost of keeping, or eventually firing, these employees. (Assuming they are capable of being happier elsewhere, these employees actually might be the biggest beneficiaries of having a specific incentive to leave.)

Although Zappos’ system is not quite to the level of a garden where the weeds pull themselves, it seems to be a clever approach in that direction.

[Original source on Zappos’ pay-to-quit program: Bill Taylor’s Why Zappos Pays New Employees to Quit—And You Should Too at Harvard Business Publishing’s Web site]

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