Article main image
Dec 16, 2015

When 1,380 employees got a $100,000 bonus each, the story should have made headlines everywhere.

The brilliant bonus decision was a wonderful example of a corporation that cares deeply about its employees. Because the reward was so successful, and, because it illustrated a side of companies that is rarely displayed to the general public, it needs to be better publicized and widely discussed.

Each employee of Texas-based Hilcorp was granted a $100,000 Christmas bonus this year or their individual contributions to company success. That action publicly demonstrated the corporation’s strong investment in their most important resource — their people.

A simple, well-designed plan

The simplicity of the plan avoided the usual defects of over-designed reward programs:

  • No fancy formula to confuse people.
  • No differentiation by title, grade, base pay, seniority, performance, race, sex, hair-color, weight or other irrelevant variables.
  • No disparate treatment to inspire envy, jealousy, suspicion or skepticism.
  • No complex distribution scheme to argue about.
  • No insignificance in the award amount, but memorable enough for a lifestyle change.
  • No inequity to generate complaints or resentment.

The bonus approach featured perfect equality of treatment, precise targeting, and open public disclosure. It rewarded and motivated, achieving high morale and shining a bright light of clear common sense in a dark world typically filled with foggy and complicated schemes.

Perhaps this latest move merely sustained an already high level of mutually enriching engagement. This is not the first time the privately-held Houston oil and natural gas company has gifted its workers with substantial pieces of their profits.

When they met a five-year goal in 2010, employees were given a choice of either a $50,000 car or $35,000 in cash. While there are few signs that publicly traded enterprises have followed this example, their established practice of generous beneficence seems to have paid off for everyone there.

A friendly dedication to employees

Hilcorp’s practices are also a noteworthy model of worker-friendly dedication by a corporation (ugh) engaged in a stereotypically filthy business.

Certain types of self-righteous people shudder with distaste at the very mention of oil, natural gas and fossil fuels. Firms engaged in their exploration and production are routinely pilloried. Sneering critics frequently project expectations of hateful behaviors upon such employers.

While non-renewable energy drilling and extraction companies seem to attract particularly strong societal distaste, sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a general bias against all enterprises engaged in the making and selling of products or services at a profit.

We rarely get any news about good corporate employers. In a world where all the attention seems to go to divisive voices screaming hostile insults or shouting dehumanizing rhetoric, it is refreshing to hear a gentle happy melody.

Instead of flinching at spiteful slurs designed to trigger knee-jerk emotional outrage from desensitized audiences deluged with sound bites competing for their attention, receiving a calm friendly positive message that brings a pleasant smile is a welcome change.

Why can’t we see more programs like this?

Wouldn’t you like to see more wildly successful programs like this? All it takes to produce more such victories is a minimal reinforcement effort on your part.

Please share this with any decision-maker considering a rewards program. They frequently need to strip down their complicated lawyer-ized packages in order to replace the usual dense obscurity with similar remarkable clarity. Let’s help spread the good word!

Of course, perhaps you have already discovered and successfully tested a superior consequence for behavior that is even more effective. If so, sharing it with us would be an even better gift for the holidays.

This was originally published at the Compensation Café blog, where you can find a daily dose of caffeinated conversation on everything compensation.