Snag Top Talent With Creative Bonus Plans

Sharp Companies Will Do More Than Dangle End-of-Year Carrots in Effort to Retain Employees

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The advertising industry is in dire need of workers with digital, interactive and online skills -- as well as forward-thinking ways to attract and retain them. And as ad agencies demand nontraditional-media experience in new hires, they also need to implement less-conventional methods of retaining existing, coveted talent.
Don Leon is senior director, Stephen-Bradford Search's media sales. Previously he worked in media sales and sales management.
Don Leon is senior director, Stephen-Bradford Search's media sales. Previously he worked in media sales and sales management.

Salary increases aren't the only reason why someone stays in or leaves a job. Still, bonuses are much-anticipated additions to regular compensation. In a candidate-driven market, companies that think big, think differently and listen to what their employees want will find themselves poised to win the talent war.

Here's how to craft a bonus plan that keeps your top talent sticking around:

1. Pay Quarterly or Monthly

The typical once-a-year carrot can cause employees to "eat and run" if they are planning to look elsewhere. Some new-media and interactive advertising companies have used a structure of rewarding people throughout the year by offering quarterly bonuses, both monetary and nontraditional. By rewarding employees consistently, employers demonstrate their appreciation, thereby raising morale and driving higher-level performance.

2. Make Bonuses Performance-Based

As the digital, online and new-media spaces diversify the advertising industry's demands, bonuses based on overall performance can encourage employees to learn the necessary skill sets quickly in order to be successful. With a performance-based bonus on the line, employees know that the value of their work and the revenue it ultimately generates will directly affect the amount. This action not only motivates employees to produce their best work, it encourages their co-workers to do the same.

3. Explain the Bonus Structure

Be sure to communicate changes early and often so employees feel they are a part of the process and understand what they are working toward. Additionally, in order to generate excitement and allow people to connect their rewards with visible numbers that represent their hard work and success, some companies might consider releasing performance figures to employees.

4. Offer Nontraditional Rewards

While most think of bonuses as monetary rewards, companies can also provide other perks or incentives to "keep up the good work." Some new-media and interactive advertising agencies give tickets to local events, stock options, prepaid tax cash bonuses, or even awards and prizes for meeting short- or long-term goals. Additionally, extra time off or, in some cases, all-expenses-paid vacations are given to employees on significant anniversaries. Staggering these bonuses throughout the year, and having a mixture of quantitative and qualitative rewards, may increase retention as employees work toward receiving specific bonuses.

5. Create a 'Best-Fit' Practice

Allowing employees to pick and choose from a variety of options for their bonuses can increase employee job satisfaction. Younger employees who have not settled down may value more time off or tangible incentives such as sporting tickets. Employees with families may value more flexible work schedules and regular monetary bonuses that allow them to spend more quality time with their families and help with added financial demands. If it isn't possible to tailor every bonus to their liking, offering options in the form of a "bonus buffet" can help employees feel like the company is meeting their individual needs and keep them dedicated longer.
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