Retailers Dangle Hiring Bonuses to Fill Positions

The labor crunch has employers desperate to hire retail, restaurant and warehouse workers.

July 02, 2021

Domino's Hiring Bonus Sign

LATROBE, Pa.—Foodservice, retail, health-care and logistics jobs are now coming with an extra perk—signing bonuses, some as much as $1,000, the Wall Street Journal reports. Once the domain of professional athletes or some white-collar professions, hiring bonuses have exploded across all sectors this summer.

Last month, close to 20% of all jobs listed on ZipRecruiter had a signing bonus, up from 2% of all jobs advertised on the online employment database in March. Such diverse industries as convenience stores, hotels, restaurants, warehouses, trucking, health-care and retail have jumped on the signing bonus bandwagon, with bonuses starting at $500 and ballooning up from there.

High’s of Baltimore and Wawa are among the convenience stores offering up to $500 sign-on bonuses to new hires.

Now, $1,000 has fast become the benchmark for hourly worker recruitment. “This is without a doubt the biggest change I’ve ever seen in mentions of a particular work perk,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist with ZipRecruiter.

Employers like cash signing bonuses because they don’t impact the hourly wage long term, according to Brad Hershbein, senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. “Businesses are jockeying for workers,” he said. “They are basically gambling they can hire workers for a one-time payment. They are going to try that first, and if it’s not enough, then they will have to do persistent wage increases.”

“Employers are looking at how they can sweeten the deal for workers and stand out,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed. “It’s really not isolated to one sector or one area, even in a specific sector.” So far, 10 states, including Michigan, Connecticut, Arizona, Colorado and Kentucky, have gotten into the work bonus game to move people off unemployment.

To help convenience retailers attract and retain top-notch people, NACS partnered with the nonprofit Good Jobs Institute in January 2020 to bring the Good Jobs Strategy to the industry. The Good Jobs Strategy, which is a combination of investment in people and smart operating choices, increases employee productivity, motivation and contribution and promotes operational excellence. Case studies show that implementing the Good Jobs Strategy can grow a business and increase customer loyalty.

Retailers can access the Good Jobs Calculator, designed exclusively for NACS and the convenience industry. This tool allows retailers to use their own data and customized assumptions about the amount of improvement or uplift achievable, and executives can run scenarios on the bottom-line impact of a Good Jobs system.