Would you like $2,000 to $5,000 to quit your job? If so, you should be working for Amazon’s fulfillment centers — if you’re ok with the working conditions.
The world’s largest retailer has launched a Pay to Quit program, which does what it promises: Workers at the company’s fulfillment centers, otherwise known as warehouses, are once a year offered a bonus to leave if they’re not happy at their job. Amazon spokesman Kelly Cheeseman told VentureBeat that the program has been tested “for years,” and was implemented at the start of this year for workers in the U.S.
The quit-incentive starts at $2,000, and grows by $1,000 a year until it reaches $5,000.
“It’s kind of like no-fault divorce,” Aberdeen Group vice president for human capital management Mollie Lombardi told us. “From a company’s point-of-view, it’s hard to admit they’ve made a mistake,” so this is a no-blame way out.
Why would any company want to pay workers to leave? To encourage them to think about “what they really want,” said Amazon founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos in his annual shareholder letter, which was made public this week.
“In the long run,” Bezos wrote, “an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”
He added that “the headline on the offer is ‘Please Don’t Take This Offer,'” because the company wants its workers to stay. Bezos said that the fulfillment center will be a career for some employees, and “a stepping stone” for others. The company pays up to 95 percent of tuition — it didn’t specify if this just applied to two- and four-year colleges or covered vocational programs as well — for employee retraining, even if the skills do not relate to their Amazon job.
It’s not clear how many of the fulfillment center workers have accepted the deal, although Cheeseman told us it’s a “small percentage.”
“Organizations realize it’s cheaper to motivate people who are going to leave anyway,” Lombardi told us, because waiting for someone to leave eventually can mean wasting money on training and building a team with them.
Zappos.com, a shoe and clothing vendor that Amazon bought in 2009, is credited with originating the idea.
The fulfillment center jobs often involve buying, picking, moving, and stocking merchandise in a huge warehouse, or managing those jobs and that inventory. The sheer massiveness of the facilities can be daunting, and a fulfillment associate might be expected to walk as much as 15 miles each day on the job.
Working conditions in Amazon fulfillment centers have received critical scrutiny on several occasions.
In 2012, for instance, an investigation by the Seattle Times exposed the “summer heat and winter chill” in a Kentucky warehouse, the extensive walking, and the highly monitored drive toward hyper-efficiency.
A 2011 investigation by the Allentown Morning Call of a Pennsylvania Warehouse found indoor temperatures were so high that Amazon had ambulances stationed outside. There have also been reports that the company has been pressuring workers not to accurately report warehouse-related injuries.
Amazon’s Cheeseman said that the company offers “a great work environment, and, first and foremost, the top priority is safety.” She added Amazon invested $52 million to retrofit all warehouses with air conditioning in 2012, and that all new locations are built that way.
Hat tip: CNBC