Art And Culture

So, You’re Offering a Sign-On Bonus. Then What?

With employers scrambling to entice people back to work after the pandemic many, like Amazon, Sheetz, Wawa, and some Jimmy John’s franchises, have turned to offering sign on bonuses to candidates. Fine. This has proved to be an effective recruitment technique for some. However, it does not come without its challenges. There’s the “cash and dash” scenario, where people put in the minimum amount of time required and move on to the next company offering a recruitment incentive. You can also alienate current long-term employees who are left wondering where their bonus went.

It’s possible employers are asking the wrong question. Perhaps the question isn’t How do we get people to work for us? Rather it’s How do we become the kind of company where people want to work? Also, How do we treat people once they join the team?

Specifically, how are you treating hourly employees? The essential ones. The people that had to work in the warehouses, the hospitals, the grocery stores, and as delivery personnel, putting their health and lives on the line, while their managers worked from home. A lot of conversation is happening around the future of the workplace that seems to be centered around office employees. For instance, a hybrid of virtual and in-the-office work, use of technology and artificial intelligence to communicate and manage productivity. What about the needs of the front line in terms of their basic humanity?

For instance, the need that everyone has to be seen. To know that someone sees who you are, what you bring to the table, and how you make a difference. The need to belong and to have your voice heard. The need to have a life outside of work and be appreciated as a human being instead of simply “unskilled labor” or “hourly workers.” Perhaps one of the reasons people are reluctant to go back to work is that they desire a higher quality of life and that often starts at work.

So, what can employers do to build a workplace that people want to be a part of because they truly feel valued, and not just because of the sign on bonus? Here are a few ideas.

Start Listening

We’re in the age of collaboration and those on the front lines (or behind-the-scenes) want to be part of the conversation. What’s your listening strategy beyond your annual employee satisfaction survey? It’s not uncommon for senior leaders to believe they’re working in one company culture that is night and day from the one hourly team members describe. The reality is that the people closest to what’s actually happening in an organization are often the ones doing the hands-on work. Find ways to include them in idea-sharing sessions, host employee focus groups, and lunch with the senior leaders events. Proactively invite involvement and input and take suggestions and feedback seriously. Want to know how to create a culture that inspires people to stay. Stop coming up with silver bullet solutions in your office – get out on the floor and ask the questions.

See Them

People may differ on whether they like public or private praise. They may love the employee FUN events or hate them. Some may prefer gift cards or others to be named employee of the month. The one thing that every individual has in common is the desire to be seen. To have their specific contribution noticed and authentically appreciated. The key to making sure this happens is to stop promoting people into supervisory positions based on performance or numbers alone, but also for their ability to inspire and “see” others. Promote people who love people and then help them develop their skills so they become the best bosses anyone ever had. Make sure you have a supervisory and leadership team that is out there noticing the contributions of others, seeing the potential in the people they lead, and including them in projects. Hire people who are naturally inclusive and seek out ways to bring diversity and equity to the team. Improve the way you promote and educate those in leadership positions and you’ll create a work environment where people feel seen, heard, and excited long beyond the bonus you used to reel them in.

Remember, They Have a Life

We’ve all undergone a collective values re-adjustment and are looking at a balance between work, home, and our overall life experience. In a workplace where people want to stay, rigid scheduling in which they have no say, mandated overtime, and a general uncaring attitude about an employee’s life outside of work will soon become a thing of the past. The future of work includes employees making their voices heard when it comes to making their jobs work for them. This could mean rethinking the scheduling process and asking team members to offer their own solutions that work for both the company and the people involved. (There’s that idea of listening to employees again.) It may mean giving people the opportunity for overtime rather than mandating for everyone. Some may be happy for the possibility of bringing on additional income, but others may prefer a more predictable schedule. Again, they also have lives and responsibilities outside of work. Provide flexibility and options whenever possible.

Your sign-on bonus might bring them in, but it’s not going to make them stay. Start re-imagining a culture that will not only attract your perfect candidates, but keep them excited, engaged, and turn them into the best advocates for your company.

Written by Donna Cutting.

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Donna Cutting
Donna Cutting is the Founder & CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Worldwide and an organizational culture consultant who helps leaders create cultures of happy, caring people who deliver red-carpet customer service. She's the author of 3 books including "501 Ways to Roll Out the Red-Carpet for Your Customers" (Career Press, 2015) and "Employees First! Inspire, Engage and Focus on the Heart of Your Organization" (Career Press, 2022).


Donna Cutting is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.