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 Brian Cox


About the Author

As a Director of Executive Search for Blue Rock Search, Brian brings a unique store of knowledge from his former senior leadership roles with Franklin Covey and CSX Corporation. Having led the Talent Acquisition and Organizational Development functions for a $4 billion private equity-owned organization, Brian has a uniquely qualified perspective on crafting overall Human Resource strategies including Talent Acquisition, Employee Relations, OD, and Learning & Development.


In this role with eviCore Healthcare/Express/Cigna, Brian led a Talent Acquisition team responsible for hiring 1600 employees per year, then eventually focused on an RPO model for volume-based hiring. He also led an Organizational Development team responsible for the development of 500 managers/directors/vice presidents. His departure from corporate leadership to direct executive recruiting in the human resources practice for Blue Rock Search has provided a valuable injection of insightful industry-specific knowledge to the Blue Rock team.

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