Job board searches for 'hiring bonus' have doubled: 6 things to know about this early incentive

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Health systems are vying for critical medical talent with eye-popping sign-on bonuses, with at least one system offering $30,000 to nurses. Here are six considerations for the extenders and receivers of this early incentive. 

1. The prevalence of sign-on incentives has doubled on one job board, Indeed. This increase is in terms of both supply and demand: Job posts advertising some type of hiring incentive have more than doubled since last July, and searches for terms such as "hiring bonus" also have doubled, according to an analysis from Indeed's Hiring Lab.

2. Several healthcare occupations have experienced strong increases in the number of jobs posted with sign-on bonuses. On Indeed, the prevalence of this incentive is up for dental (13.8 percent of job postings), nursing (11.3 percent), physicians and surgeons (8 percent), medical technicians (6.2 percent) and therapists (5.7 percent). 

3. Budget-wise, the controllability of hiring bonuses is useful. They incur a one-time cost, and employers can stop offering them as soon as they're fully staffed, according to AnnElizabeth Konkel, author of the Hiring Lab analysis. Despite the name, they are used as a retention tool in that employees often have to stay in a job for months before receiving the full amount.

4. For these same reasons, lower sign-on bonuses are less likely to be effective with candidates. A sign-on bonus is better than no bonus, but it would almost always be more advantageous for workers to negotiate a higher starting salary, David Madland, senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, told NPR.

5. Health systems aim to stand out in a complicated labor market through competitive sign-on bonuses. Houston Methodist is offering $15,000 sign-on bonuses to nurses and $15,000 referral bonuses for employees. Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta is offering qualified nurses the opportunity to earn up to $30,000 in sign-on bonuses and/or relocation assistance with a commitment that extends through two years. Here are a number of other systems that released incentives in June to bolster hiring and retention.

6. Incentive payouts don't guarantee ease in hiring. Pittsburgh-based UPMC is offering recruitment bonuses up to $10,000 for registered nurses, and Allegheny Health Network is offering up to $15,000 for more experienced nurses — yet some healthcare leaders are still describing the nursing shortage in western Pennsylvania as "critical."

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