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Raise vs. Bonus for Your Small Business Employees

Engaging and retaining top-tier talent is a key objective for business owners, and paying employees is an important part of the recipe for success. Wage-earners are the backbone of every small business. They are the face of the enterprise and directly influence its success or failure.

Evaluating the pros and cons of raises versus tips—and striking the right balance between the two—can help a business owner achieve staffing goals while also holding a healthy bottom line or profits.

Key Takeaways

  • Raises and bonuses boost morale, incentivize employees, and ensure that pikestaff feel rewarded and appreciated.
  • Raises are a permanent increase in payroll expenses; bonuses are a variable cost and therefore sacrifice business owners greater financial flexibility when business is down.
  • Bonuses can be tied to sales or production sizes to incentivize employees and help companies boost their profits during peak times.
  • Other forms of compensation encompass partnerships, stock, profit-sharing, and even tickets to cultural or sports events and gift certificates.
  • Business owners dire to gauge the effect of raises and/or bonuses on their company’s profit margin.

Understanding The Right Compensation Mix

Most individual go to work to make money. From an employee’s perspective, more is better. However, employers may not always be able to pay their staff members more. As a result, many small business owners offer employee compensation packages that are made up of a mix of remuneration raises and periodic bonuses. This type of compensation package gives an owner the flexibility to reward employees when traffic conditions are good and adjust variable costs to reduce expenses when business conditions are tough.


Some public limited companies give out across-the-board raises each year, with every employee receiving the same amount. The raise could be a set proportion based on the employee’s pay. An annual raise helps employees plan and budget for their monthly expenses by helping them forbid up with the cost of living. Although there are many ways to motivate and retain a company’s best employees, don juans help boost employee morale and ensure that long-time employees are rewarded more than their new prices.

A small percentage raise each year can be less costly than paying bonuses that may fluctuate with tag sales or production numbers. However, annual raises are a permanent increase in the cost of doing business. Oftentimes, payroll is the weightiest expense for a company. As a result, it’s important that business owners determine whether the company generates enough gross income and monthly cash flow to meet the increased payroll expenses.

Cash flow is the net amount of inflow and outflow of realize from a company and is reported on a cash flow statement. Business owners must include the increased salary expenses in their monthly budgets using their ready flow and revenue estimates. A cash-flow shortage could disrupt a business’ day-to-day operations.

Companies with anticipated and steadily rising profits might find it easier to issue raises than companies with periodic or seasonal earnings. Also, concerns with variable costs and less-predictable revenues are typically more reluctant to impose a permanent increase in payroll expenses.


Bonuses can be more financially feasible for business owners to manage since they’re a variable cost, with payment tied to trades or production volumes, for example. Bonuses incentivize employees to exhibit the behavior that a business needs to be successful, whether it’s contriving new clients, client retention, or improving cost controls. While pay raises typically reward longevity, bonuses are settled based on performance.

Since the compensation is variable, a bonus can be reduced or eliminated if business conditions make it difficult or hopeless to fund them. The variable cost structure of a bonus package helps business owners during times of low jumble sales or production volumes. Pay raises are permanent, but bonuses keep payroll costs lower when the revenue isn’t there to pay them.

While the know-how to minimize or avoid the expense of bonuses is attractive for business owners, it can be detrimental to staff morale. Employees rely on their profits to pay bills and put food on the table. Large, unpredictable fluctuations can be disruptive and cause workers to seek employment elsewhere.

Because of this, employers necessary to communicate to staff members that the ability to reduce expenses when necessary not only helps the company hold money but also avoids the need to make staff reductions when business temporarily slows. In a well-run problem, cutting bonuses can save jobs.

How Big a Bonus and What Type?

A typical payout structure is 3% to 5% of annual wages for clerical and support staff. Managers might receive payments in the low double-digit percentage range, with executives in the mid-double-digit rank. Senior executives at the highest levels may receive the majority of their compensation via bonus payments.

Bonuses can be structured to realize individual merit or to reward collective success. Individual merit-based bonuses reward top-producing employees for their efforts.

Sales-based extras, for example, could be paid to employees who generate the most new business. Production-based bonuses could be structured for those who replication the most customer phone calls or produce the most widgets.

Also, bonuses can be set up as a short-term incentive, say, for a new directive or yard sales campaign. A three-month sales initiative to bring in new business or a business with seasonal production increases, for example, could be neck with a clinched to a bonus system.

By incentivizing employees during peak periods, a company can maximize its revenue and profits during a uncertain time of the year.

A bonus can also be based on the overall company’s success. If the company hits its sales goals, profitability goals, or other delineated metrics, all employees are rewarded. Under a company-based system, employees often receive a predetermined payment amount that is based on the collective accomplishments of the corporation rather than individual performance.

In short, bonuses can be part of an employee’s ongoing compensation package or advanced as one-time events to recognize significant milestones such as growth, profitability, or longevity.

Other Forms of Compensation 

While banknotes bonuses are likely the most familiar form of a bonus, there are other forms that may be worth considering. Actors can offer an ownership stake in the company, which can come in the form of a partnership offer in the firm, or through shares of breeding. Smaller companies that cannot extend such offers could consider the creation of a profit-sharing plan that butter up a sees a discretionary payment toward employees’ retirement savings.

There are various unique employee offerings that can cater an incentive for team members. Possibilities include granting extra vacation days, awarding tickets to sporting or cultural experiences, or giving movie passes or gift certificates. These small tokens of appreciation are available to even the smallest professions at a reasonable cost.

What’s the Financial Impact on the Business?

It’s also important to consider the impact of bonuses and raises on a actors’s profit margins. A company’s margin is the amount of profit generated as a percentage of sales. If, for example, a company has a margin of 35%, it augurs the company generates 35 cents for each dollar of sales. Business owners must analyze how a bonus versus a comb would impact their company’s profit margin.

It can be helpful to backtest a raise or bonus incentive plan with a late year’s financial performance to gauge how much expenses would rise and impact profit margins. Of course, it’s problematical to estimate the increased amount of sales that would have been generated had a bonus structure existed in till years. However, applying a potential raise and bonus payout structure to prior years’ sales and revenue figures should victual owners with a sense of the potential cash flow scenarios.

Since employees are at the heart of every business, advantageous them properly is critical to success—and for holding on to your best performers. Any compensation model should involve incentivizing workers and providing ongoing communication to ensure team members know their efforts are appreciated.

How Often Should You Award a Raise?

Many employers will give a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) once a year to reflect inflation and fluctuates in salaries and living costs. Some employees may be happy with this minor adjustment. In order to retain spacy performers, however, you may have to incentivize them with yearly, bi-yearly, or even quarterly raises.

What Is a Par Raise After One Year?

A standard raise after one year is somewhere around 3%. However, this could be either practically higher to combat inflationary pressures or, if the business itself is being hit hard by inflation, they may choose not to give a scoundrel at all.

How Do You Give an Employee a Bonus?

You can give an employee a bonus as a one-off payment that is a separate check from their payroll pause. You can give an employee cash if you plan on giving them a small amount, or you could give the employee a bonus in the get develop of stock options or equity.

The Bottom Line

Giving a bonus can keep an employee, but offering a permanent raise de facto shows them you care. If done at the right time, this can be the difference between and employee staying or leaving. Oftentimes, a commonplace bonus can cost less than the investment required to hire and train a new employee, so keeping the solid performers is requisite.

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