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New Report: The Incentives That Might Bring America’s Workers Back to the Office

In a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hiring bonuses and similar incentives top the list of things that could attract workers to fill currently-empty jobs. The survey polled over 500 Americans who lost jobs during the pandemic and have not yet returned to full-time work and revealed that the top incentives are pretty much what you might expect: monetary compensation and a sense of security.


Among those surveyed, 39% reported that a signing bonus of $1,000 would incentivize them to return to full-time employment. The next most frequently cited responses were flexibility for remote or work-from-home arrangements (32%) and a five percent pay increase from their last similar job (24%). Rounding out the top five are vaccination requirements for workers (23%) and the availability of schools, daycare, or other childcare options (17%).


It’s an insightful look into the factors that have led to something of a worker shortage in recent months – and the ones that could persuade people to return to work. The survey reveals that workers are, by and large, looking for small but significant financial incentives along with practical ones that are perceived as making work safer or more convenient. Practical concerns that have come to the forefront during the pandemic, such as flexibility and childcare, play a significant role in the conversation as much as more obvious financial incentives.


“One of several important and immediate steps governors can take in encouraging unemployed, hesitant-to-return Americans to rejoin the workforce is investing federal relief funds in hiring incentive programs like return-to-work bonuses,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as part of the report.


The report comes on the heels of other Chamber of Commerce polling that shows worker availability continuing to decrease. According to one analysis from June, worker availability is half of what it has been across the past two decades: the previous average has been 2.8 available workers for every job opening, but that number now sits at 1.4.


“America’s great economic resurgence is being held back by an unprecedented workforce shortage—and it’s getting worse,” Bradley also said. “We are seeing an increasing number of businesses turning down work and only partially reopening because they can’t find enough workers.”


For many workers, it seems like the pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the importance of things like workplace quality, culture, and feeling genuinely valued. A business looking to stand out can highlight not just its fair salaries, but also a positive work culture that emphasizes the same values these workers are seeking. After all, signing bonuses are effective but one-off; they may help attract talent, but retaining it requires a more nuanced approach.


HR can and should be leading the way in highlighting the best parts of company culture and figuring out what, if any, new steps need to be taken to remain competitive and attract top talent in this market. The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the work world for the foreseeable future, and it’s important to embrace the fact that the “new normal” won’t look quite like the “old normal.”



By Ruben Moreno


About the Author

After a 25-year career in Corporate Human Resources and HR Executive Search, Ruben Moreno and his two partners co-founded Blue Rock Search based on a simple but ambitious vision of creating a firm that would “Change Lives and Organizations One Relationship at a Time.”  Ruben leads the Blue Rock HR & Diversity Executive Search practice specializing in the identification, assessment, recruitment, and onboarding of Chief HR Officers and Chief Diversity Officers and their respective teams — inclusive of leaders in Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HRBP’s, Learning & OD, HR Technology, HR Operations, and HR Analytics. Ruben has helped place hundreds of HR Executives and built deep relationships within the CHRO community across multiple industry verticals. His clients consider him a trusted partner who takes the time to understand their business and add value beyond executive search.

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