Should You Offer a Retention Bonus in 2024? Here’s What You Need to Know

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Miriam Groom, VP Sales & Marketing
Miriam Groom

12 May 2024 • Estimated reading time : 9 mins

The importance of retaining top talent cannot be overemphasized. Employee retention bonuses have emerged as a strategic tool to not only keep key employees but also to foster loyalty and support organizational stability.

But should you offer a retention bonus in 2024? This article aims to demystify employee retention bonuses, diving deep into their objectives, calculations, and tax information.

What are employee retention bonuses?

Employee retention bonuses are financial incentives given to employees as a way to encourage them to stay with the company for a longer period of time. They are usually offered to key employees or those in high-demand positions. These bonuses can take various forms, such as cash rewards, stock options, or additional benefits. The primary goal of these bonuses is to reduce employee turnover and retain top talent within the organization.

What are the objectives of the retention bonus?

The objectives of retention bonuses are multi-fold. Firstly, they aim to enhance employee loyalty and commitment by demonstrating the company’s appreciation for their contributions. Secondly, these bonuses can serve as a powerful tool for attracting and retaining high-performing employees in competitive industries or job markets. Lastly, they contribute to cost savings, as the expenses associated with recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees are often higher than those of retaining existing ones.

1. Retaining top talent

One of the primary objectives of retention bonuses is to retain top talent within the organization. By offering financial incentives, companies can motivate their key employees to stay with them for a longer period. This is especially crucial in industries where skilled professionals are in high demand and employee turnover can be costly.

2. Enhancing employee loyalty

Retention bonuses also aim to foster a sense of loyalty and commitment among employees. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to remain dedicated to their work and the organization. This can lead to higher productivity, better teamwork, and improved overall performance.

3. Attracting high-performing candidates

In addition to retaining existing employees, retention bonuses can be used as a tool for attracting high-performing candidates during the recruitment process. By highlighting these incentives, companies can position themselves as desirable employers and stand out in competitive job markets.

4. Cost savings

Retention bonuses may seem like an additional expense, but in the long run, they can actually result in cost savings for the organization. Recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees can be expensive processes, both in terms of time and money. By retaining existing employees through retention bonuses, companies can avoid these costs and maintain a stable workforce.

5. Ensuring continuity and stability

Retention bonuses also contribute to ensuring continuity and stability within an organization. When key employees are incentivized to stay, it helps maintain institutional knowledge, relationships with clients or customers, and the overall smooth functioning of operations. This can be particularly valuable in industries where specialized skills or expertise are crucial, as it reduces the risk of disruption or loss of productivity due to turnover.

6. Fostering loyalty and commitment

Retention bonuses can foster a sense of loyalty and commitment among employees. When a company invests in its workforce by offering these bonuses, it sends a clear message that it values their contributions and wants to retain their talent. This can lead to increased job satisfaction, engagement, and motivation among employees, ultimately resulting in higher productivity and performance. Moreover, employees who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to develop a long-term commitment to the organization, reducing turnover rates and creating a more stable work environment.

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7. Addressing skill shortages

Retention bonuses can also be used as a strategic tool to address skill shortages in the market. In industries where there is high demand for specific skills, companies often face challenges in recruiting and retaining top talent. By offering retention bonuses, organizations can incentivize skilled employees to stay with the company, reducing the risk of losing them to competitors. This not only helps in maintaining a competitive edge but also saves recruitment and training costs associated with replacing highly skilled workers.

8. Improving employee engagement

Retention bonuses have a positive impact on employee engagement. When employees receive these bonuses, they feel recognized and valued for their contributions, which enhances their sense of belonging and commitment to the organization. This increased engagement translates into higher levels of productivity, as engaged employees are more motivated to perform at their best. Additionally, engaged employees are more likely to go above and beyond their job responsibilities, contribute innovative ideas, and collaborate effectively with colleagues, all of which contribute to organizational success.

9. Enhancing employer brand

Retention bonuses can also have a positive effect on an organization’s employer brand. When word gets out that a company offers attractive retention bonuses, it can become known as an employer that values and invests in its employees. This reputation can help attract top talent in the market, making the recruitment process easier and enabling the organization to select from a pool of highly skilled candidates.

10. Supporting organizational stability

High turnover rates can disrupt workflow, lead to knowledge loss, and impact team dynamics. Retention bonuses help mitigate these risks by incentivizing employees to stay with the organization for longer periods. This stability allows teams to build strong working relationships, fosters continuity in projects, and ensures consistent delivery of products or services to clients. By promoting stability within the organization, retention bonuses contribute to overall operational efficiency and long-term success.

Employee Retention Bonuses Calculations & Tax Information

Calculating the exact amount for retention bonuses can vary depending on various factors such as employee tenure, performance, and level within the organization. It is crucial to establish clear criteria and guidelines to ensure fairness and transparency in the process. Additionally, organizations must also consider tax implications associated with these bonuses, both for the employer and the employee. Consulting with a tax specialist or legal advisor can help navigate these complexities and ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

1. Aggregate Method

The aggregate method is a common technique for calculating the tax on retention bonuses. This method involves adding the bonus to the employee’s regular income for the pay period and applying the applicable tax rate based on their total income bracket. For example, if an employee normally earns $4,000 per month and receives a $2,000 retention bonus, their income for that month would be considered as $6,000. The total amount would then be taxed at the rate corresponding to the $6,000 bracket, which might be higher than the rate applied to their regular salary alone. While this approach may be simpler to implement, as it doesn’t require separate tax calculations for the bonus, it can lead to a higher tax liability for both the employer and the employee, particularly if the combined income pushes the employee into a higher tax bracket.

2. Percentage Method

The percentage method calculates the tax on retention bonuses independently from regular income, applying a specific flat rate or percentage solely to the bonus.

For instance, if an employee receives a $3,000 bonus and the designated tax rate for bonuses is 25%, then $750 would be deducted as tax.

This approach ensures the tax on the bonus is proportional to its amount, not affected by the employee’s total income. While it provides clarity by separating the bonus tax from other earnings, it might lead to a higher tax burden for the employee if the applied tax percentage is greater than their usual rate. This method also involves more complex calculations compared to aggregating the bonus with regular income.

Do retention bonuses work?

Certainly – Retention bonuses can indeed be effective, acting like a cliffhanger in a TV show that keeps employees eager to see what happens next. These financial incentives are used by employers to retain key staff during pivotal times, such as major projects or transitions.

However, their success is not just about the money. A retention bonus also signals to employees that they are valued, boosting their loyalty to the company. But, effectiveness largely depends on other factors like job satisfaction, career opportunities, and the workplace environment.

While retention bonuses can keep employees around for crucial periods, they work best when part of a broader strategy that promotes long-term engagement and satisfaction.

Should you always take a retention bonus ?

Deciding to accept a retention bonus requires a thoughtful assessment of several key factors, rather than a simple yes or no answer.

First and foremost, consider the financial aspect of the bonus.

How substantial is it in comparison to your current salary or potential offers from other companies?

The amount should be compelling enough to justify the additional time you commit to your current employer. Beyond the immediate financial incentive, you need to think about the strings attached—namely, the period you are required to stay to qualify for the bonus.

This commitment should align with your career objectives. For instance, if staying could hinder your professional growth or delay a much-desired career move, the bonus might not be worth it. Additionally, evaluate the overall health and direction of the company. If the organization is unstable or if you’re unhappy with the workplace culture, a retention bonus might merely be a temporary fix rather than a solution to underlying issues.

What does the company need to include in the agreement?

Ensure that the terms and conditions of the retention bonus are clearly outlined in the agreement. Take note of any contingencies or clawback provisions that could result in having to repay the bonus if certain conditions are not met. It’s also important to consider the impact on your future job prospects.

If potential employers see a history of accepting retention bonuses without staying long-term, it may raise questions about your commitment and loyalty. Ultimately, the decision should be based on a careful evaluation of your individual circumstances, weighing the financial benefits against potential long-term career implications.


From an employer’s perspective, retention bonuses are crucial for retaining vital talent, enhancing employee loyalty, and attracting skilled professionals, all while managing costs effectively.

These incentives are key to nurturing a committed workforce and ensuring organizational stability. It’s essential for us to maintain transparency and fairness in the allocation of these bonuses, fostering a supportive environment that aligns with our employees’ career aspirations and contributes to the long-term success of our organization.

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Miriam Groom, VP Sales & Marketing
Miriam Groom

Miriam Groom is a nationally renowned Industrial & Organizational Therapist and HR Strategist specializing in strategic and innovative talent management & workforce transformation strategies that are highly employee-centric.