The Washington Post

Good news for workers: Bonuses are back

For employees hoping to receive a fatter paycheck, the recession and its aftermath were bleak times. Companies pulled back on bonuses and lavish perks. Budgets for payroll increases were slim, meaning raises were often slight and hard to come by.

But new survey data from WorldAtWork, a nonprofit association for human resources professionals,  offers promising news for workers looking to pull down more cash. According to the report, companies are implementing bonus programs in 2014 more frequently than they were in 2010, the last time the organization surveyed employers about this topic.

Use of all varieties of bonuses—referral, spot, signing and retention—have increased, with particularly dramatic upticks in the use of signing bonuses and retention bonuses.  The chart below shows the details:

Courtesy of bonus Programs and Practices survey from WorldAtWork.
Courtesy of Bonus Programs and Practices survey from WorldAtWork.

While referral bonuses had reigned supreme in the survey for more than a decade, they were easily outranked this year by signing bonuses as the most popular form of award. And many of these signing bonuses provide far more than a little extra pocket change. In fact, some 41 percent of employers offering this perk reported that they paid executives signing bonuses that exceeded $50,000. Another 12 percent reported paying sums that high for upper management.

Retention bonuses also saw a big leap in usage, with 51 percent of companies implementing them in 2014, more than double the percentage that were doing so in 2010.

The study also found that 29 percent of respondents said they are offering all four varieties of these bonuses, a big jump from the 9 percent who reported doing so four years ago.

It seems likely that there are two key reasons why employers are upping their investment in bonus programs. As the national economy improves, companies have renewed confidence that they’re on safe enough financial footing to offer this perk. And it’s also likely a sign that the competition for top talent is intensifying as workers, too, feel more confident about the job market and are willing to jump ship to other opportunities.

It’s too early to know whether salary increases will also get a bump in 2014 amid an improving economy. Forecasts from organizations such as Society for Human Resource Management and the Hay Group suggest that salary increases will likely hover around 3 percent this year.  It won’t be until 2014 draws to a close that we’ll have reliable data on what kinds of raises employers actually ended up doling this year.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
Next Story
Amrita Jayakumar · June 19, 2014