COMMENTARY | When Amazon announced it would pay employees up to $5,000 if they wanted to leave, I figured it was more PR than pro-worker. Though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos painted the $5,000 payouts as generous and altruistic, I questioned how the cash stacked up to other corporate severance packages. I thought that Amazon came out ahead rather than the workers, since $5,000 was pocket change for such a huge corporation.
But what about $25,000? According to Business Insider, Riot Games, creator of the popular PC game League of Legends, is willing to quintuple Amazon’s severance pay for workers who want to quit…even if they are recent hires! By drastically surpassing Amazon’s “buyout” of unhappy employees, is Riot Games pioneering a new tactic in human resource management? When it comes to employees, is it really ¢ heaper to keep her if she is unhappy?
Riot Games’ new policy encourages some study of how draining unhappy employees are to an operation’s bottom line. When is it better to make it attractive for unhappy workers to leave than continuously try to re-motivate them? Does an unhappy employee really cost more than $25,000 in lost productivity? It is interesting to plumb the grey depths of employee motivation…or lack thereof.
How many employees are truly happy at their jobs? How many are working diligently? Do they need to be working diligently for it to be in the company’s best interest to retain them? When does experience trump passion? For example, though an employee may not be happy with his job, would his experience and efficiency outweigh his lack of motivation?
Riot Games is wagering that happy, motivated employees are better than unmotivated employees, even if the unmotivated employees are experienced. If the severance pay policy proves profitable, will other companies follow suit? In the maco sense, will it be worthwhile for all large employers to offer grants to pay to retrain unhappy workers, either as severance or as an intra-company job transfer program? For instance, would a school district benefit by offering to pay the full cost of allowing a teacher to go back to school and become certified as a guidance counselor, thus retaining the experienced employee in a happier position?
The idea of such generous severance, training, and re-training policies flies in the face of current trends, which demand that young applicants come pre-educated, pre-trained, and pre-certified. Employers’ stinginess, however, may be sapping their strength by leaving them riddled with unhappy workers who do not wish to brave a mean job market again. The only way to find out whether generous is better is through the bravery of companies like Riot Games, who are taking substantial gambles on their profit margins.
Good luck, Riot Games!