Friday, December 19, 2008

Bonus or no bonus at the end of a tough year?

In a February 2007 e-glass poll, 83 percent of industry representatives reported they offer employee incentives such as bonuses. Almost two years later, the U.S. is up to its eyeballs in a recession, with a bleak forecast on the horizon. What can glass companies do to motivate employees when bonuses just aren’t in the budget?

In my elementary school days, my slim allowance money couldn’t quite get me through the holiday shopping season. Macaroni-cover tin cans, and homemade coupon books with promises of hugs and car washes, however, served as cost-free and greatly appreciated gifts. But for cash-strapped companies looking to provide holiday incentives to employees, macaroni art likely won’t cut it.

In its November issue, Fortune magazine asked three business leaders what they do for employees when times are tight.

Laura Sejen, global director, strategic awards for Watson Wyatt, an HR consultancy out of Arlington, Va., said employers should strive to cut back bonuses rather than eliminating them completely. “Start a recognition program that gives spot bonuses based on performance. It’s a low-cost way to reward employees and allows you to be selective in granting awards,” Sejen said.
Jim Weddle, CEO and managing partner of Edward Jones, a brokerage firm out of St. Louis, said his company cuts bonuses when the alternative is layoffs. “I’ve been asking managers to simply tell folks that they’re appreciated,” Weddle said.

Weddle said being upfront and honest about the situation eliminates the surprise. “Explain how they system works, and they’ll get it. Revenues are down, so variable compensation is down too.”

Paul Amos II, president and COO of Aflac, Columbus, Ga., agreed that honesty is the best policy when cutting bonuses. “Tell [employees] via every means possible. First, look them in the eye and tell them. They may not fully absorb the changes, so you need to follow up in writing. And then third, make sure to give employees a forum to ask you questions about the change,” Amos said.

Weddle and Amos said they also get creative with their incentives. “We do little things like add casual days. We hired the Ringling Bros. circus to perform for our associates,” Weddle said. “We also recognize folks by giving them a day off to volunteer for causes like Habitat for Humanity,” Amos said.

Glass Magazine publisher Nicole Harris asked glass business owners what they were doing about end-of-year and holiday bonuses in her January 2009 Publisher’s Notes. She received varied responses, including one from an owner who was still undecided about 2008 bonuses. “We stopped doing a Christmas bonus and are doing—or were doing—a bonus on profit. I am considering eliminating that this year in an effort to conserve cash. We are fortunate that we still have work and have only reduced our staff by one. In an environment where many people are losing their jobs, I think my employees will be understanding.”

So, what are your bonus plans for employees? Hopefully nothing with macaroni.

Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor, fabrication co-editor, Glass Magazine


Anonymous said...

thank you for your timeing on this. We have had a good year and feel very thankfull to all that did there part to make it so. I will give out small thankyous and conmmunicate that we are conserveing for future of everyone to contune getting paychecks.

Calibre Door Closers, Inc. said...

In 2008 our company was very fortunate...the company performed well, the customers honored us with their ongoing purchasing, and we managed to make a reasonable profit. We could not have accomplished all this without our employees and their dedication. Yes, we will share our success ($$) with our employees at year end.

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