Monday, January 01, 2001

Signing bonuses? Not anymore

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        What a difference a year makes. When a new year last dawned, companies were scrambling for workers. They offered signing bonuses, staying bonuses, general principal bonuses, stock options and the moon and stars to anybody with a pulse to come onboard. As 2001 unfolds, don't look for those days to return.

        “There is no question employers are pulling in and are much more concerned about long-term employment levels. They are scaling back,” said John Challenger, chief executive at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an international outplacement company based in Chicago, that has worked with 70 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.

        While the era of too few workers for too many jobs has apparently ended, some of the workplace perks from the dot-com days will probably live on for good.

        “The gains in the workplace in soft benefits — telecommuting, part-time work, flex-time, a better balance between work and life — those gains are here to stay,” Mr. Challenger said.

        But management guru Peter Block, author of four books and an internationally known management consultant who lives in Cincinnati, thinks wacky bonuses are dead as a hiring tool.

        “I don't think we're going to hear about anymore work-here-and-drive-a new-BMW bonus stories,” he said.

        “What does it mean when new prospective employees with the Harvard MBA want to talk about exit strategies before they are even hired?”

        Workers can expect rising but modest increases in wages and salaries in 2001, according to a survey and report from Hewitt Associates, a global management consulting and benefits delivery firm that annually surveys 856 organizations nationwide.

        Hewitt Associates, based in Lincolnshire, Ill., projects average salary increases for 2001 at 4.4 percent for salaried exempt employees, 4.3 percent for salaried nonexempt employees, 4.1 percent for nonunion hourly workers and 4.5 percent for executives.


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