We copied Zappos and offered to pay our staff to quit, hereʼs what happened
I opened the weekly managerʼs meeting and made an announcement. “I want to make sure that everyone that is working for us is excited to be working for Cadsourcing. Thatʼs why I want to announce immediately that weʼre going to offer 15,000 pesos to anyone that quits in the next two weeks.”
There was a moment of silence and I could see in the faces on in the video conference that everyone was a little stunned. We were in the process of finishing up our best quarter ever. The companies revenue had grown about 80% in the past year. Things seem to be going great. Than why was I, the most optimistic guy in the room, the founder and CEO of Cadsourcing, all of a sudden suggesting to trim staff with some sort of severance package.
Our General Manager, Amy Sy, spoke first. “Ok. But what happens if everyone decides to take us up on the offer?” We had just given everyone a full monthʼs year end bonus. With another 15,000 pesos that might really be an incentive for someone to quit. Amy knew this and was obviously concerned that all the effort she had put in nearly doubling the size of our team during the past year might come crumbling down in one crazy action by me.
Our management style is very open and I strongly encourage open discussion on everything we do. I was happy to hear Amy speak up with her concerns. “I donʼt think that will happen.” I said. “I think weʼve created a company culture that shows the team how much we value them and I think they are all committed to what weʼre trying to accomplish here. If half the team leaves, then we will know weʼve been doing something wrong.”
Paul Lemieux, Chief Revenue Officer in charge of sales and marketing, spoke next, “I like it. If someone doesnʼt want to be here then we shouldnʼt stand in their way.”
“Thatʼs right.” I said. “Remember, weʼve grown / ton in the past year. I wouldnʼt be surprised if 3 or 4 of the guys and gals decided that this wasnʼt the right fit for them. It doesnʼt mean that they donʼt like us. Sometimes peopleʼs goals change, maybe they want to move, maybe their family situation has changed. There could be a ton of reasons someone would leave and they donʼt have to be because they donʼt like Cadsourcing.” This resonated with the team and I could see the initial shock on everyoneʼs faces brighten up as they recognized what I was trying to accomplish.
As the one who works most closely with the staff, Amy had the most insight into how the pulse of the team was. “Their are a couple of guys I know are possibly considering quitting. They might have just been waiting for bonuses to be paid.”
“If their going to quit, itʼs better that they do that now.” I said.
Dean Mason, Director of Operations, jumped in. “I agree. It might actually be a good thing. The holidays are relatively slow but in a couple of weeks when everyone gets back from vacation we should be swamped again. If anyone is on the fence and they decide to quit in February or March because weʼre swamped and people are working overtime and the stress level is increased, thatʼs going to be a bigger disruption than if if they quit now. At least if they quit now we can look to replace them before the rush is back on.”
Soon after we were all on board and convinced that this was the right thing to do. Now we just had to implement it and see how many people really wanted to be here and how many people we would have to scramble to replace before the next rush of work. I was excited and if Iʼm being totally honest a little anxious but I was confident in our intentions and was optimistic that things would work out well.
We reviewed the logistics and process for announcing to the team. Amy said she would follow up with our attorney to ensure we worded everything correctly. I was to make a video that would be shared on our company message board, “The Water Cooler”, announcing the program and explaining why were doing it. Amy would follow up during the morning huddles to answer any detailed questions and get the vibe of the team and Dean would be ready with any questions that might come to the project managers.
We were very careful to express this program in a very positive light. This was not a desire to reduce staff. In fact, we were hoping to grow the team in coming months. No one was being asked to quit. Our only hope was to make the transition of anyone that wanted to leave as smooth and as positive as possible. If you were an employee that wanted to move on to other opportunities but were holding back because you were afraid the company was going to be upset or because you were just a little short financially then we wanted to let you know that we support you and that this was the time to move on. We named the program our “Goodwill Program”. We wished goodwill for everyone and wanted to make anyoneʼs separation the most positive experience it could possibly be. I reasoned that if we do this right every employee that ever leaves us would become an ambassador for the company and tell all their friends how great it was to work for us and thereby open us up to additional quality employee candidates.
The management team pulled together beautifully and the announcement went off without a hitch. The following management meeting Amy reported on what happened as we all eagerly listened on our video conference. “Well I couldnʼt believe what happened. The team watched Bryanʼs video on the tv monitor and then after a short pause everyone basically looked around and said they werenʼt going anywhere. The mood was so upbeat. Everyone was smiling and laughing and talking about how great the company is doing and how they are excited for whatʼs coming up this year!”
The program was a huge success. Of the nearly 60 people employed by Cadsourcing only 1 person ended up taking us up on the offer. He had previously mentioned he was considering leaving and this allowed him to do it. He had received a job offer to work overseas and was eager to give it a try. Interestingly one other team member also approached up about leaving. She had been considering becoming a nun and maybe this was the sign for her to make that leap. When I heard that I was overjoyed and that would have made an amazing story but ultimately after a couple of days she said that she had decided to stay on at Cadsourcing as she had to work on herself first. We were very happy to have her stay on the team.
In retrospect I wish I had implemented the Goodwill Program yearʼs ago. It is aligned with our desire to have the best culture possible and is a great test to ensure we keep doing that. Iʼd wholeheartedly suggest other companies consider doing similar in their companies and see how well theyʼve done building a cohesive team ready to achieve great things together. Thanks to all the employees of Cadsourcing for everything they do and for trusting our vision and where we want to go!