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Why Signing Bonuses Don't Work

Uncategorized Aug 05, 2021

Employers are struggling to find workers and money won’t solve the problem.

I hear in on the radio, read it in the local papers, see it on social media: work here and we’ll give you a signing bonus! 

Here are my top three reasons why this is a poor strategy for most businesses:

  1. Signing bonuses may diminish your workplace culture.

Are they coming because of your team atmosphere, corporate values or just for the cash?  Many new hires right now are coming off a tough time financially and the bonus might cloud their lens in how they evaluate your workplace.  Fit is important. While the thought of a signing bonus might have lured them in, are they the right catch? 

A great way to gauge this is to see what questions they ask you during the interview. Are they asking questions on team dynamics, leadership, development and advancement opportunities or are they more curious as to the logistics of how the bonus comes into play?  For me, even 1 question about how the bonus works in the first interview would be a red flag potentially. It would depend on if they asked any other questions.

  1. Signing bonuses may alienate your existing employees.

Unless you’ve given loyalty bonuses to those that have stuck with you and positioned these new signing bonuses properly, you might have more employees going out the back door than that come in the front.

Loyalty bonuses should be awarded face-to-face, so take the time to connect with each of your staff, or have your division managers lead this for you. 

  1. Signing bonuses have a short shelf life.

The longer someone holds onto an object before throwing it away and forgetting about it is all about that object’s perceived value.  In my opinion, signing bonuses are like a grease fire, they come in hot and fade away fast.

Instead, many of my clients are integrating these dollars into funding wellness or lifestyle expenses through their benefits program. Not all programs can do this, but with creativity and clever plan design, benefits like child care, gym memberships and dog daycare can be covered. Isn’t it more powerful to say we help our employees live better lives, as opposed to saying we’ll give you $5K if you stick around for a year?

So before throwing gas on $5,000 (or whatever it is that you’re thinking of offering), and lighting it with a match, consider this adage: pause, read, react.  Take the time to consider the impact and value that the signing bonus is truly creating.

What are your thoughts? Comment below or message me to explore these points further.


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