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Written By
Dean Matthews

The great post-bonus resignation: How to prevent employees from leaving after bonus season

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In many companies, employees who are planning to leave will wait until their end-of-year bonuses are in their bank accounts before they depart for something that suits them better. If your company has a policy of giving end-of-year bonuses, you may find a spike in resignations in January.

While bonuses and raises are vital to keeping your best employees, it’s obviously problematic when they literally take the money and run. In this article, we’ll give you some tips and techniques to prevent employees from leaving after bonus season.

Employee resignations in Singapore

The Great Resignation is an economic phenomenon that started in 2021 and saw tremendous numbers of people leaving their jobs. According to the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore, the 2020 pandemic saw the average monthly resignation rate in Singapore dip to 1.5% – the lowest in the last decade. However, it quickly picked up again, maintaining at 1.7% in 2021 and 2022. 

Why did this happen? When there is a crisis (like a global pandemic), people thinking about resigning may postpone any big risky changes. However, once things settle down, employees may take advantage of the higher number of job openings to move on with their careers, often seeking more flexible work conditions or better pay.

Although some experts point out that resignations have slowed down a bit since 2021, there are reasons to think the trend will continue. When PwC surveyed 1,000 employees in 2023, they found that “employees still plan to resign from their positions despite uncertain economic times.” Notably, 34% of employees in Singapore planned to do so in 2024 – a 13% increase from the previous year. 48% of Gen Z employees shared this view, proving that job loyalty is no longer the priority it was.

Why are employees resigning in Singapore?

Besides usual motivators such as a change of culture or flexible work, switching jobs is likely to be more lucrative than staying put. According to Randstad’s Employer Brand Research report in 2023, monetary reasons were among the top five motivators for employee resignation in Singapore.

1. To improve my work-life balance (41%)
2. Low compensation & rising cost of living (38%)
3. Lack career growth opportunities (33%)
4. Received an offer I could not refuse (28%)
5. Lack interest in my job (25%)

But while 45% of employees in Singapore say that pay increases are the key to addressing staff turnover, only 24% of Singapore employers agree

And with bonus season around the corner, employees may be planning on jumping ship right after getting their payouts. How can employers intercept the Great (Post-Bonus) Resignation then?

How to prevent employees from leaving after bonus season

Let’s be honest. Each organisation has its own expected turnover rate. However, when you see an increase of employees leaving, especially at the end of the year, it may be time to ramp up the initiatives to incentivise employees to stay. Here are six strategies you can use:

1. Raise their base salary in line with inflation

One of the main reasons people quit their jobs is to get a pay increase at another company. In an inflationary economy—and which country doesn’t have inflation these days?—salaries lose their acquisitive power year by year. No wonder 37% of employees in Singapore plan to ask for a raise (vs 29% in 2022) and a promotion (vs 26% in 2022) in 2024.

Keeping pay raises aligned with the cost of living should be just the start. A better strategy to retain your talent is to align raises with the market rate for raises for each specific position. This way, employees motivated to switch jobs to improve their salary won’t be looking for greener pastures.

2. Structured timed payouts

Contrary to popular belief, delaying compensation does not keep employees motivated. Instead, when employees look forward to getting a part of their bonus sooner, it helps to make their motivation consistent. 

To prevent the post-bonus resignation from happening, distribute bonuses with payouts throughout the year (e.g. quarterly). This strategy keeps employees motivated while preventing an exodus at the end of the year.

3. Redesign their roles and responsibilities

Sometimes, employees leave to advance their careers because of a lack of internal promotions. Based on EY’s Work Reimagined Survey in 2022, career growth was the second most (the desire for higher pay was the first) cited reason by 35% of employees in Singapore.

Aligning your employees’ values and goals with new roles can do wonders for improving employee retention. By investing in their learning and development and, by extension, career progression, you can demonstrate commitment to your employees and give them incentive to stay. 

4. Ask for feedback and implement suggestions

Any organizational initiative needs the buy-in of the employees to be successful. If you’re implementing career development programs, giving raises that align with the cost of living, and distributing bonuses across quarters, why might you still see an increase in turnover at the end of the year? 

Instead of trying to guess why people are leaving, ask your employees. For instance, roll out employee surveys and ask about preferred incentives. Also, check with high-level employees for their feedback on recognition and rewards. In some workplaces, these are referred to as “stay” interviews – a pre-emptive measure to exit interviews and prevent employees from leaving.

By doing so, you gain the buy-in of employees and management for your benefits and employee retention measures.

5. Upgrade your systems

Employee retention is a priority for senior executives, and advanced tools can help. They give HR managers and CEOs real-time data, offering a detailed picture of what’s happening with talent.

You may also streamline processes that frustrate employees by automating manual processes, implementing accurate time tracking, and improving payroll scheduling, to name a few. These mean less time spent on manual, repetitive tasks, reducing burnout and increasing  employee retention.

6. Place a larger emphasis on work-life balance

There’s a deep connection between work-life balance and employee satisfaction, as evident in the top five reasons for employee resignation above. Supporting a balance between employees’ work and personal lives results in better mental health, job satisfaction, and employee engagement. 

You may find that employees are looking for flexible working hours and hybrid or remote work, or health benefits such as gym memberships. Employees who experience a healthier work-life balance develop a stronger commitment to the organisation, and are thus more motivated to stay.

Make your retention plans now

If you want to prevent the Great (Post-Bonus) Resignation, it’s always a good time to implement employee retention plans. The strategies outlined in this article, from considering the rising costs of living to streamlining cumbersome processes, are a good place to start.

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