Ryutaro Tsukata, Pexels.
Ryutaro Tsukata, Pexels.

Employers Roll out the Red Carpet

From signing bonuses to employee trophies, companies woo workers to accept job offers, stay—and come back to the office.

Employers have woken up to a new reality in 2022: the Great Resignation was not just a short-lived blip.

Instead, it is lingering far into the year, and that means organizations are rolling out the red carpet to recruit and keep employees like never before.  

“Major employers have told us that they have never seen anything like this,” says Julia Pollack, chief economist for ZipRecruiter, an online employment marketplace. A record 4.53 million workers quit their jobs in March 2022, surpassing the previous high of 4.51 million in November 2021, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released this month by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In fact, things are so rosey for job seekers that 18% of people who accepted jobs say they ghosted employers, by simply not showing up for work, according to an April survey by ZipRecruiter. “It’s an environment where workers are in the driver’s seat. People don’t have to care that much.”

In years past, employers would only dole out signing bonuses for new recruits—but only for the hard-to-fill top jobs or top talent. Today, 22% of new hires are receiving bonuses when they take a job, up from 4% in 1991, according to ZipRecruiter.

“That’s way, way up,” Pollack says, “and it highlights the difference between today and employment studies over the past 50 years.”  

Raytheon is giving a minimum $40,000 signing bonus for an aerospace engineering job, and others are promising cash bonuses upon hire for professional jobs at such companies as Amazon, Twitch and Verizon.

Outside recruiters, mental health and birthdays off. 

More companies are employing outside recruiters, too: 37% of people surveyed by ZipRecruiter said their jobs found them, instead of them searching for the position. And 67% of people who voluntarily quit their jobs went on to land jobs with pay raises, according to ZipRecruiter.  

Employers are rolling out perks, including vacation stipends, paid volunteer time, time off for birthdays, mental health coverage. Pet insurance, of all things, has exploded, says Pollack.

“Employers are far more willing to raise wages, offer more flexibility, whatever works,” she says.

Some companies are working to boost their company culture—to recruit and retain workers and get people back into the office.

Pet insurance as an employee perk has “exploded,” according to ZipRecruiter. Petr Magera on Unsplash. ​​

Culture and flexibility top the list of wants

Job seekers are increasingly putting culture and flexibility at the top of the list when looking for a position, according to HR executives. 

Melanie Foley, Liberty Mutual’s executive vice president of chief talent and enterprise services, told Forbes this month that flexibility, empathy, and belonging must be at the core of everything a leadership team does. A survey of its employees showed it was important for employees to feel supported with flexibility, mental health resources, and team connectivity.

True, McKinsey & Co. found that more than half of employees who left their job in the last half of 2021 didn’t feel valued by their organization or manager and they lacked belonging. At least 46% of people said they wanted to work with people they trusted and cared for each other. “Employees want stronger relationships, a sense of connection, and to be seen,” writes McKinsey. The office alone won’t provide that. It must be strategic and provide space for true socialization and collaboration.

Company culture and connectedness are at top priorities for today’s job seekers. Jud Mackrill on Unsplash.

Office parties that create FOMO

“People are picking and choosing in ways they haven’t before,” says Emily Zini, senior director of operations and human resources at The Escape Game, a Nashville company with 25 escape room locations.

Like many companies, Nashville-based The Escape Game added more flexibility to its 100 office workers’ schedules, allowing earlier or later start times during the day, and adding work from home options. But the 800-employee company, which runs 25 escape rooms across the country,  also made a party out of returning to the office.

The Escape Game celebrated its first week back together with balloons, food trucks, games, and prizes and continues to make as many things celebratory and social at the office, whether it’s Taco Tuesdays, Monday Milk and Cookies, or over-the-top employee award ceremonies. About 80 of 100 of the corporate staffers now regularly work out of the office. 

“We go all out with balloons, confetti and themed trophies,” says Zini. “And there’s a bit of FOMO if you’re not in the office.”

The Escape Game has held giant water balloon battles to foster team culture. The Escape Game.

To win over new recruits, the company simply exposes people to those celebrations and comradery in the office. They invite top talent into the office for “trailing days,” which involves shadowing company leaders, joining marketing huddles or events. “People usually walk away saying, ‘That was cool, I definitely want to be part of it,’” says Zini.

Employers may see a slight shift this summer. In April, the U.S. recorded a slight drop in the number of job openings, as consumer confidence dips and inflation rises, according to ZipRecruiter’s April job seeker confidence index. 

Yet what employees want out of a job may remain for some time.

“The last two years have changed work-life equilibrium forever,” Foley says. “Employees and job seekers are prioritizing how they want to structure their professional lives – frequently around their personal lives, and when looking for jobs, they are valuing personal success over professional wins.”