Would you quit your job for a smartphone? It’s likely that most of you reading this just thought “Of course not!”. But that’s exactly what Microsoft is hoping their Chinese employees in manufacturering positions will do. In case you’ve forgotten, Microsoft is preparing for the largest layoffs in company history. From their Chinese manufacturing plant, they’ll be laying off 4,700 employees, leaving only 300 remaining at the plant. Most of the employees are going to be laid off, so Microsoft is hoping they can convince some of their employees to leave on their own. I’m not entirely sure how unemployment benefits are doled out in China, but in the US, the company responsible for the laying off or firing of an employee has to pay for a portion of the benefits. If Microsoft can convince Chinese employees to leave on their own, they will not have to pay these benefits.
So how’s Microsoft trying to get their employees to abondon ship willingly? They’re offering their users a free smartphone, and it’s not even a very good one.
The move isn’t unheard of in the business world. Companies frequently offer incentives for their employees to resign before they undergo “restructuring” (layoffs). Again, it’s a way for the company to keep unemployment benefits to a minimum, and also give employees the sensation of having some choice in the matter, even if they really don’t.
The phone in question would be a Nokia Lumia 630. Of course, it’s a Windows phone, but it’s a mid-tier smartphone. In fact, one might call it Nokia’s budget smartphone. It has a low resolution screen, slower quad core processor, and very basic 5MP camera. It doesn’t use the latest technology, doesn’t have the fastest processors, and doesn’t come with an impressive camera. What it is worth, however, is aproximately $130 in China. For reference, and iPhone 5s would cost about $789 in China. While the price of the Lumia 630 may not be within the range of the poorly paid workers, it is still a paltry amount when considering the benefits the worker would be throwing away. Still, with 94% of employees losing their jobs, surely a few will take Microsoft up on the offer. To further the sense of urgency, Microsoft is only giving the phones to the first 300 people who willingly resign.
It’s a bit of a low tactic on Microsoft’s part, but it will likely get 300 participants who may have found another source of income already and see the phone as a bonus. The other 4,400 employees without a job will have to make due with the low unemployment benefits offered in China until they can find a new job. Still, it’s a shame Microsoft couldn’t give these employees a nicer phone. Perhaps they could have splurged for the Nokia Lumia 1020, Nokia’s flagship smartphone? Or perhaps the issue is that Microsoft does not consider their employees worthy of their best phone?