WorldatWork: Employee Bonus Program Offerings Decline

May 4, 2011 — A new WorldatWork study, “Bonus Programs and Practices,” found that prevalence of a variety of bonus programs have declined since 2008 and are at approximately the same levels as 2005. In 2010 when the survey was conducted, employers’ use of referral, sign-on, spot and retention bonuses had gone down since the survey began in 2001. Referral bonuses remain the No. 1 bonus program employers are using today.

“Despite the current economic slump, there is a shortage of qualified employees in certain hard-to-fill positions,” said Kerry Chou, compensation practice leader for WorldatWork. “Companies have to work hard to attract and retain their employees.” The survey found that, when a referral bonus program is in place, an average of 13% of new hires come from employee referrals.

Bonus programs organizations offer (by type*):
Referral bonus = 60 percent
Sign-on bonus = 54 percent
Spot bonus = 43 percent
Retention bonus = 25 percent

In addition, the survey found that:
• Eighty-five percent of employers offered at least one type of bonus program while 15 percent of the sample did not offer any bonus programs at all.
• Nine percent of surveyed employers offered all four types of bonus programs.
• The average number of bonus programs offered was two.

*Types of bonus programs in this survey:
Referral bonus: a cash award paid to a current employee for referring a successfully hired job applicant.
Sign-on bonus: a cash bonus given at the beginning of a service period, usually for accepting an employment offer.
Spot bonus: a type of informal recognition that is delivered in cash, spontaneously or “on the spot.”
Retention bonus: a cash award typically tied to the length of service or some other milestone.

About the Survey

WorldatWork collected survey data from December 15, 2010 to January 7, 2011. There were 1,023 responses in the final dataset. Survey respondents were WorldatWork members employed in the HR, compensation and benefits departments of mostly large U.S. organizations: 73% from private sector and 27% from public sector and not-for-profit. To view the video and access the report, click here.

About WorldatWork®:
The Total Rewards Association

WorldatWork ( is a not-for-profit organization providing education, conferences and research focused on global human resources issues including compensation, benefits, work-life and integrated total rewards to attract, motivate and retain a talented workforce. Founded in 1955, WorldatWork has nearly 30,000 members in more than 100 countries. Its affiliate organization, WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals®, is the certifying body for the prestigious Certified Compensation Professional® (CCP®), Certified Benefits Professional® (CBP), Global Remuneration Professional (GRP®), Work-Life Certified Professional™ (WLCP®), Certified Sales Compensation Professional™ (CSCP™), and Certified Executive Compensation Professional™ (CECP™). WorldatWork has offices in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Washington, D.C.

The WorldatWork group of registered marks includes: Alliance for Work-Life Progress® or AWLP®, workspan®, WorldatWork ® Journal, and Compensation Conundrum®.

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