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Many industries offering hiring bonuses, other incentives to attract potential workers

Hiring bonuses are nothing new, but they're becoming more common for entry-level positions in industries like food service, healthcare and transportation.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Amid the pandemic, many industries are dealing with staffing shortages and companies are willing to pay top dollar to get candidates to accept a position. From healthcare to transportation to food service, hiring or sign-on bonuses are becoming more common. 

One company looking to hire employees nationwide, including in Portland, is U.S. Xpress, a trucking company based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

"We talk about essential workers over the pandemic and truck drivers are part of that essential group. Truck driving is a tough job," said Shea Enright, director of driver recruiting for the company.

RELATED: Lateral firefighter jobs open up at Portland Fire & Rescue due to staff shortage

The truck driving industry is now facing a growing and unprecedented driver shortage. The American Trucking Associations estimated late last year that this shortage would hit a historic high of just over 80,000 drivers. 

With so many drivers in demand, Enright said people might come across one of their online postings. One listing in Portland touted a $30,000 sign-on bonus for a team of two. 

"It is legit," she said. "If you and I were in a truck together, I would be driving while you were sleep and vice versa, so the truck never stops."

Enright said the bonus is paid out over the course of a year.

"We are trying to make sure that our offerings and those incentives that may catch their eye are in front of them. We've had a great response to our bonus offerings."

Eye-catching offers also seem to be driving up applications for TriMet bus drivers. The agency announced a $2,500 signing bonus in November. Since then, officials said they've gotten 240 applications. Looking back a month-and-a-half earlier, TriMet received 136 applications in the same period of time. 

Portland State professor of management Berrin Erdogan said other sectors feel similar strains and shortages. 

"In some industries and in some companies, it is harder to find people," Erdogan said. "Particularly retail, restaurants, hospitality, nurses and teachers. Those have been the ones that were visible to me."

Erdogan said she is placing the blame on wages and working conditions.

"What I am seeing, compared to prior to the pandemic, [is that] these jobs became much worse. They were never very easy jobs to perform and they were never the high-paying jobs to begin with."

Erdogan said, before the pandemic, sign-on bonuses were offered mainly to people in high level positions. Now, even entry-level jobs might have this perk. 

While she argued hiring bonuses do serve a purpose in helping find new workers, she said they can also have unintended negative consequences like a sense of unfairness for existing employees or a culture of turnover. 

Erdogan's advice: Stop employees from leaving a job in the first place with things like retention bonuses, employee referrals and additional benefits. 

"Instead of short term solutions, just investing in employee relationships, I would recommend that ."