Can Paying People To Quit Actually Drive Better Employee Engagement?

Originally published on TLNT

By Dusty Wunderlich

April 5, 2016


What do you do with an “adequate” employee — the type of person who puts in just enough effort to get the job done, but is clearly only in it for the paycheck?

The answer, as strange as it may seem, might be to pay them to quit.

It’s a tactic that’s been growing in popularity in recent years, having been used by a variety of companies, from Amazon and Zappos to the developers of the game League of Legends. After all, who wouldn’t want an opportunity to replace disengaged workers with an excited, vibrant team, eager to tackle the issues of the day?

Employee engagement is the core of any successful workplace. According to Gallup, companies in the top quartile of employee engagement are four times more likely to be successful than those at the bottom.

Employee engagement is a boon to productivity and the health of a business — just as a lack of engagement can be a business’s biggest mistake.

As extreme as it may sound, paying unengaged employees to leave the company could actually lead to a more engaged team and spur growth in an organization.

The beauty of employee turnover

Ideally, each hire is the right hire, and flagging engagement is a non-issue. But sometimes even highly qualified employees simply don’t mesh with a workplace culture, or their job roles evolve into something unsatisfactory.

It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault; it’s just not a great match.

In today’s hyper-competitive market, companies simply cannot afford to have disengaged employees impacting productivity. In the long run, paying mismatched employees to quit may actually be the most profitable solution for everyone involved.

To send a qualified employee out the door and into the hands of the competition may seem like a tactic that could make the business strategically vulnerable. But building a business into a well-oiled machine requires employees who are passionate about the company’s vision.

Encouraging employees to quit the right way

Mindful managers may already have employees in mind for this process, but how do you pay the right employees to quit without creating chaos among your team? And how can the process be turned into a profitable decision?

  1. Calculate the right amount to offer. Figure out the return on investment you have for an engaged employee versus a non-engaged employee, and then do the math. For instance, if a highly engaged employee has the ROI of $3,000 per week of paid hours and a disengaged employee loses $1,000 each week of paid hours, anything below $4,000 would be a worthwhile cost to pay for the benefits of a truly invested team member.
  2. Maintain a clear message. There’s a fine line between encouraging disengaged employees to leave and failing to properly develop in-house talent. It’s not about pushing out troubled team members — it’s about fostering passion among clear misfits. Make sure your employees understand you aren’t punishing disinterested employees, but fostering an environment that encourages engagement and a love of the work.
  3. Fix your hiring practices. Of course, this whole process doesn’t work if you just hire another employee who will become equally unengaged. Be direct during the interview process. Make sure prospective employees are a match, and take the necessary steps to tie them to both the mission and the role they will fill. This may require bringing more team members into the interview process or even ushering in a trial phase. Let them know early on that the position is more than a paycheck, and that those who hold a different view may want to look for a different job.

While this may seem like a strange way to create a better workforce, it may be just the tonic your company needs to foster passion and push productivity to the next level.