Money Talks, But Will It Be Enough?: Which Incentives Work Best to Lure Job-Seekers?

What if you posted a job and nobody wanted it?

This is the situation that numerous businesses face today, particularly in the service industries and health care. In Texas alone, there are approximately 23,000 open positions for nurses, and the situation is getting worse. Between burnout attrition and a historical lack of a development pipeline, there just aren’t enough candidates to meet needs. 

In other industries, the rapid response of companies to add automation and other technology to operations has accelerated the shift in on-demand skill sets, jumping to a scenario experts expected 10+ years down the line.

Long story short: The demand for skilled candidates is through the roof right now, and companies are trying to come up with creative ways to woo their favorites. From sign-on bonuses to childcare coverage and tuition reimbursement to even paying people $50 to show up for an interview, employers are using any means necessary.

If you’re in this position, you may be tempted to show all your cards at the very beginning. After all, if you can’t get job-seekers’ attention, you can’t hire them. But is that enough? 

At the ERE Digital conference, Sept 23-24, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion titled, “Money Talks, But Will It Be Enough?: Which Incentives Work Best to Lure Job-Seekers?” While the pandemic pushed this topic to the top of the prioritization list, the reality is that attraction and retention challenges have been around for a while, and they will not go away anytime soon. We’ll be talking about the pros and cons of offering short-term hiring incentives vs a more comprehensive total compensation approach. It’s going to be a good conversation!

In the meantime, if you have immediate plans to move in the direction of hiring incentives, there are few things to keep in mind:

Short-term incentives can’t overcome a terrible comp philosophy. A one-time bump of $500 is great for a new employee, but it may end up driving turnover if the base pay is significantly less. Make sure you’re paying fair, market wages, with an understanding that those numbers may be significantly different now. 

Article Continues Below

Messaging matters. Yes, you want to stand out from all the other job postings. But unless you’re an actual circus or provider of midway games for carnivals, you probably don’t want your messaging to sound gimmicky. Desperation doesn’t work. Retain your value as an employer and work with marketing if you’re unsure of the best approach.

Value over cost. What matters most to your candidates? Maybe early on it was a sign-on bonus (who doesn’t like a little extra money?), but reasons why no one is applying for your roles may have changed. In the service and healthcare industries, burnout and safety have taken center stage. In tech, flexibility and freedom are now table stakes. Even traditionally in-person positions are seeing candidates demand more balance and less commuting. Offer what matters long-term.

Invest in your people. Can’t hire for the new skill sets? Develop them instead. Companies are paying the price for downplaying a long-term skills-development strategy and are facing increasing pressure to be on the frontlines of the reskilling movement. Create in-house apprentice programs, host employee-only code camps, sponsor job sharing so people can learn a new role — anything to accelerate new skills development. And it won’t necessarily hurt your retention either.

The challenge to attract and hire workers has always been around. What feels different this time is that people are rethinking their options in new ways — what kind of life they want to live vs what kind of job they want to have. You need to be ready to offer value beyond the bottom line.


Want more insights on how to use — and not to use — incentives in your hiring process? Join Mary for her panel at ERE Digital, Sept 23-24, “Money Talks, But Will It Be Enough?: Which Incentives Work Best to Lure Job-Seekers?” View more sessions and register here.)

Mary is a principal with IA, a boutique consulting firm focused on HR transformation. She is also a talent strategist and business leader with almost 15 years experience in helping organizations achieve their goals. After working on the operations side of start-ups and small companies, Mary landed in HR by way of learning and development, with extensive experience in leadership and organizational development, coaching, key talent planning, talent acquisition, performance management, business partnering, HRIS, process and policy creation, and instructional design.

In addition to her work within companies, Mary authors a leadership development blog called Surviving Leadership to continue the dialogue around the challenges of leadership – both being a leader and being led. 

Topics