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Human resources questions for dentists: How to offer signing bonuses during staff shortages

Jan. 8, 2021
This dental practice is considering offering a signing bonus due to the lack of applicants for their open dental assisting position. How do they go about correctly carrying out the offer? These HR experts share tips.
The human resources landscape is constantly changing. Dentists have ongoing questions about how to handle staff issues. The HR experts at Bent Ericksen & Associates have seen it all, and they're here to help.

QUESTION: Our practice is trying to hire a dental assistant. We posted our position, and we have not received any applicants. It seems that after the COVID shutdown, there is a shortage of dental assistants in the market. We’re thinking of offering a signing bonus. We’ve never offered one before and we don't know if that might help attract applicants. What are your thoughts? If we do offer one, it is contingent on the new employee staying for a period of time being hired?

ANSWER: The increase in the number of employers asking us this question makes me think this is becoming more of a trend due to the current circumstances. While I don’t know if this will help with your applicant pool, it is something to consider and it never hurts to try!

Usually, a signing bonus is a one-time event that happens immediately upon hire. That's not to say that it can't occur after a certain period of employment, but that may be seen as less enticing by applicants. 

To be attractive, the bonus needs to be a decent chunk of money; $5,000 to $15,000 is fairly typical. Signing bonuses are usually reserved for high-level employees, which is why that price range is so significant. You could also use 5% or 10% of the annual gross salary as a bonus point. Thus, someone with an $80,000 salary would receive a $4,000 bonus.

You will need to place this signing bonus in your ads for the position. If or when you hire someone, you will need to ensure this signing bonus is spelled out in your offer letter. You need to make clear that this is a one-time event, and you need to clarify how it will be paid, such as all at once or after a certain period of employment. Good luck!        

For previous HR questions and answers, visiting DentistryIQ and search "human resources questions for dentists." 

Human Resources Questions for Dentists is provided by Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg of Bent Ericksen & Associates. Tim Twigg is president and Rebecca Boartfield is a human resources compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists deal successfully with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit bentericksen.com.