Sign-On Bonuses Can Play Pivotal Role in Attracting Seasonal Staff
Workspan Daily
November 21, 2023
Key Takeaways

  • Sign-on bonuses. While competitive hourly compensation rates remain key, it could behoove organizations to tip the scales in their favor by providing perks such as sign-on bonuses for season staff. 
  • Go beyond compensation. In order to land the best possible talent, after compensation other factors are top of mind for potential employees, including things like a safe work environment and skill development.  
  • Cast a wider net. Dropping certain education and skill requirements, as well as allowing applicants with non-violent criminal records, could expand the hiring pool and increase the likelihood of closing labor gaps.  

Under the best of conditions, hiring seasonal employees presents challenges for employers -  particularly in areas including retail, hospitality, food service and package delivery.  

This year, competition for temporary talent is especially fierce as demand is expected to rise from prior pandemic-riddled years and the labor market remains tight.

While competitive hourly compensation rates remain key, it could behoove organizations to tip the scales in their favor by providing perks such as sign-on bonuses for season staff.  

Course: Compensation Immersion Program 

David Lewis, CEO at Operationsinc, an HR consulting business, said offering a sign-on bonus ranging from $250 to $2,000 is common. And Lewis said that could then be paired with a retention bonus that could be in the same range or higher as a way to motivate seasonal workers to stay on. 

“Because the talent pool is so shallow, firms need to focus on ways to make things work for the good candidates vs. force a candidate to fit their ideal schedule, timeline, etc.,” he said.  

For example, Lewis said posting that schedules can be made flexible to accommodate each candidate is “huge.” 

“Telling someone they can work Monday, Wednesday and Sunday during [flexible hours] will deepen the pool of available talent,” he said.  

Employee referral bonuses – for both the employee and the new hire – can also drive success.   

“A well-organized marketing campaign to your team that explains the need to hire, pays bonuses of $200-plus per hire or even per referral that meets certain qualifications, is a must right now given how few may apply via a posting,” Lewis said. ““Bottom line, you need to pull out all the stops.” 

Go Beyond Compensation  

Carol Leaman, CEO and co-founder of Axonify, which trains frontline workers, said organizations will have to use multiple levers in their total rewards model to fill labor shortages this time of year.  

“Something we’ve seen emerge time and again within the industries we serve is that while compensation is incredibly important, it’s far from the only thing that keep employees loyal and engaged,” she said. 

In a recent survey about seasonal hiring, Axonify  asked more than 300 frontline managers what they were offering beyond compensation to entice skilled seasonal workers. Competitive benefits/perks was only the third-most popular answer – ranking behind promoting a safe, secure work environment and increased training/upskilling opportunities. 

“While compensation will always be part of the conversation, other elements of the frontline worker experience — a strong employee community and empathetic leadership among them — are becoming increasingly crucial to finding, engaging and retaining top talent,” Leaman said.  

According to the Axonify survey, when it comes to attracting and landing seasonal staff, hiring is falling at the feet of frontline managers, who are taking on the bulk of the work: from anticipating staffing needs and recruiting all the way to onboarding and training new hires. 

“It’s widely known that the frontline manager is a crucial intermediary and when you layer on this level of additional responsibility, it becomes difficult for them to get the job done — never mind promoting a positive, engaging experience for current staff,” she said.  

Organizations are also experimenting with different approaches, such as revising job descriptions or even dropping education or skill requirements entirely to entice more people to apply for seasonal positions, Leaman said.  

“We’re also noticing an increase in organizations that are casting a wider net and opening up hiring to varied groups like ‘second-chance talent’ - i.e. applicants with a non-violent criminal record,” Leaman said. “Flexible work schedules, shift bidding and being able to float between locations are also getting more popular as ways to show associates that organizations are prioritizing versatility.” 

Operationinc’s Lewis sees that at the end of this holiday season many of the bigger companies will again offer full-time positions to their top seasonal workers.   

Even with all the perks, hiring seasonal workers in a market where unemployment remains under 4% and will remain a major challenge, he concluded.   

Editor's Note: Additional Content 

For more information and resources related to this article see the pages below, which offer quick access to all WorldatWork content on these topics: 

Related WorldatWork Resources
California Fast-Food Workers Form New Union
Boeing: Aerospace Workers Demanding 40% Pay Raise
How to Prepare for the New Independent Contractor Rule
Related WorldatWork Courses
Sales Compensation: Foundation and Core Principles
Advanced Excel Skills for Compensation Professionals
Sales Compensation: Advanced Implementation and Program Management