Some workers will simply follow the money, changing
jobs based on the compensation, loyal only to their own pockets.
In our research for our new book (see www.impendingcrisis.com),
we encountered a number of employers who believe they can solve
their job vacancy problems by dangling huge signing bonuses in front
of desired candidates. Bonuses have become an easy way out for employers
who don't have the courage or the leadership to change their business
practices. The bonuses will also give the illusion that recruiting
and retention are getting easier. The problem is that every time
someone "wins" a new recruit, someone else loses. Our research suggests
that this big bonus game does not work, and it's very expensive.
Looking more closely at this issue, social network
analyst Scott Degraffenreid describes what he calls "Mercenary Darwinism."
When employers hire people who have demonstrated a tendency to leave
for more or quick money, they often overload their staff with people
who are loyal only to the highest bidder. These self-centered employees
are a "fickle workforce." Their loyalty is to themselves and their
The plot thickens. Mercenary Darwinism sends strong
signals to existing staff that job hopping for bonuses is condoned,
even encouraged. Signing bonuses have a consistently and extremely
deleterious effect on tenure and retention. The practice accelerates
both warm- and empty-chair attrition of experienced employees, requiring
more hiring of inexperienced "mercenaries."
This recruiting approach is the classic case of
a short-term solution generating a much greater long-term problem.
As the economy heats up and employers become hungry
- even desperate - for talented and capable workers, the bidding
wars will resume. The mercenaries will sell their services to the
companies that make them the best deals. They will only stay until
someone else makes them better deals. Some employers will seek to
stop the movement with contracts, but most mercenaries will again
buy their ways out of those contracts, often supported by acquiring
Unless employers engage in the practices that will
attract and hold long-term employees, some will be forced to hire
mercenaries to keep their doors open.