Desperate Employers Try Bonuses to Lure Workers

Businesswomen Talking in Office
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Getty Images, John Daly

Good help is hard to find, and it’s getting harder: To combat an ongoing labor shortage and attract workers, more companies are throwing cash at potential hires.

A new survey found that 4.1% of job postings on Indeed for the week that ended June 18 advertised hiring incentives like signing and retention bonuses. Although that may seem like a small percentage overall, it’s more than double the 1.8% for the seven days ending July 1, 2020, according to Indeed’s research arm, the Indeed Hiring Lab, which conducted the study.

After being closed for months during the pandemic, businesses eager to reopen face difficulty in finding workers. There’s been much speculation about the reasons for the labor shortages—school closures, lingering COVID-19 fears and enhanced unemployment benefits are among them—but the result remains the same: Employers are having trouble keeping their operations going without adequate staff. 

Some have raised wages, and now others are trying new tactics like offering hefty one-time cash payments to new hires.

“Recruitment gambits like these underscore how some employers are throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks,” wrote Indeed Hiring Lab economist AnnElizabeth Konkel in a statement. 

Incentives are seen as a win-win for workers and employers. They’re appealing to potential new hires—who doesn’t like more cash?— but they’re also economical for employers because they’re a one-time cost that doesn’t require increasing wages or providing paid time off for all employees, Konkel said.

The use of incentives is rising across almost all industries. Driving, including long-haul trucking, was the sector with the largest increase in use of ads with a signing bonus share (16% in the 7-day moving average on June 18 compared with 11.4% at the start of the year). The personal care and home health sector saw the next largest jump, with 9.1% of its job openings including an incentive, up from 5.9% in January.

How much companies are willing to offer is all over the map, from $100 to as much as $30,000 for nurses, and between $100 and $2,500 for food service workers.

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