Bonuses are up – how to plan if you didn’t get one this year

It’s bonus time! That is if you work at a company that gives out bonuses. According to new research from global staffing firm Robert Half, the odds are good: 76% of senior managers report that their companies offer year-end bonuses.

Most organizations plan on either increasing the bonuses they already offer (48%) or keep them the same amount (48%). Only 4% said they would reduce their bonuses.

In a separate survey, 52% of workers said they expected they’d receive a bonus this year. What did they plan to do with the extra cash?

  • Put it in long-term savings (52%)
  • Take a vacation (47%)
  • Use it for holiday shopping (46%)
  • Use it for paying off debt (46%)

Bonus etiquette – the art of giving

Brandi Britton, a district president for Robert Half, spoke to Ladders about the state of the year-end bonus.

In general, the purposes and tactics of the bonus from the employer end encompass three things, Britton said. “One, to reward employees for doing a good job, and along with that is the recognition. Two, it’s a retention tool. Three, when companies are doing well, they often will share some of that benefit with their employees.

Even at companies that give out bonuses, not every employee at that company will get a bonus – and not all bonuses will be the same. That leads to careful communication when bonuses are being handed out.

“If everyone in the entire company is receiving one, then they can do a lot of pomp and circumstance around it – everybody’s getting a bonus!” Britton said.

“But not all companies [do it that way], and frankly my experience has been, not every employee always gets the bonus,” she said. “So, in that scenario, that when you take those bonus conversations one at a time to let people know what they’re getting.”

This strategy is also useful when people are getting different amounts, she added. “So, it’s easier to just have that one-on-one communication. ‘Here’s your bonus, congratulations.’ So they don’t have to worry about as much of the issues of ‘Why did Susie get $5,000 and I’m only getting three?’ Things like that.”

If you don’t get one this year, ask about next year

Employes can set themselves up to receive their own bonuses the next year if they missed out on this years. Britton confirmed that there was a possible strategy here. She suggested, “If you learn that bonuses may be offered again the following year, asking and getting together with your manager to set a goal so they can earn it.”

She emphasized the questions to ask: “Does the company pay bonuses: Am I eligible? What can I do to be eligible?” If they’re not eligible, “they can talk about their manager about how to maybe set themselves up for a larger annual increase.”

“There are even nonfinancial retention tactics you can ask for if you’re non-eligible for a bonus – like creating a great culture, where people don’t want to leave you,” said Britton.  She mentioned flexible work schedules, team lunches, and activities where the company is giving back to the community.

“We’re seeing a lot of work companies focusing on philanthropy because that’s really important to their employees,” said Britton.

As you can see, there are many ways to receive or create bonuses at work – and not all in the traditional year-end variety. Go get’em, and good luck!