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MBO Bonus: What It Is, Key Benefits & Alternatives

Ryan Shank

In today's competitive business environment, it's important to know and use the right incentive systems. A powerful system that many companies don't understand is an MBO bonus. MBO bonuses are designed to enhance employee motivation and satisfaction by linking directly to specific objectives.

But, there's a lot more to them than what meets the eye, which is why this guide will unpack them and explore alternative bonus strategies that might suit your business more.

Key Takeaways:

  • MBO bonuses are tied to measurable objectives, in a bid to improve company-wide performance and motivation.
  • Proper implementation of MBO bonuses means setting clear criteria, aligning them with company goals, and providing regular feedback.
  • Alternatives to MBO bonuses, like profit sharing, can also be an effective way to motivate employees by tying rewards to company goals.

What Is an MBO Bonus?

A Management by Objectives bonus (MBO bonus) requires staff to meet certain performance criteria at the beginning of a performance cycle to be rewarded. The main idea behind an MBO bonus is to define clear, measurable objectives that suit what the company is aiming for at the time.

It's a method that ensures employees, managers, and even senior managers focus on concrete outcomes that contribute directly to corporate goals.

Through an MBO plan, employees are encouraged to perform at their very best by directly linking their potential bonus amount to achieving agreed-upon targets. This alignment of individual performance with organizational objectives boosts productivity and enhances job satisfaction, as employees understand that what they do contributes to everything.

Implementing an MBO bonus plan means setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) criteria. These qualifying criteria are usually developed collaboratively by employees and their supervisors.

The Benefits of MBO Compensation in Your Organization

We've already touched on how an MBO bonus plan can benefit your company, so let's take an even closer look...

Employee morale and motivation

MBO bonuses can uplift your employees by making success tangible. When they see a direct link between their efforts and their rewards, it effortlessly boosts employee enthusiasm, making them more committed to their work.

This system also promotes fairness and transparency within the organization, since the bonuses are based on clear objectives that the entire team can work towards.

Employee retention

Because of globalization, remote work, and a bunch of other factors, the job market has become incredibly competitive. This is why retaining top talent is so important for organizational success.

An MBO bonus payment can do a lot in terms of employee retention. By rewarding employees for achieving specific goals, MBO bonuses show that the organization values their contributions and is invested in their professional growth.

This acknowledgment enhances job satisfaction and fosters a strong sense of loyalty among staff, so they won't spend their lunch breaks perusing Indeed.

Productivity and performance

Another huge benefit of MBO bonuses is improved productivity and performance. It's a strategy that incentivizes employees to meet and exceed their targets since they know their achievements will be directly rewarded.

Because MBOs rely on setting specific and measurable objectives, employees know exactly what's expected of them. However, a robust implementation strategy and clear communication throughout the bonus period are required to achieve these results.

This clarity helps to reduce ambiguity in performance expectations, so employees can focus better on meeting their goals. Increased focus naturally leads to higher productivity.

MBO Bonus Examples

Here are a few examples of companies that try to involve employees more through MBO bonus programs:

HP Inc

HP is a good example of a company that uses a form of an MBO bonus plan. Their employee rewards and recognition program encourages their staff to work "wherever they feel most productive," directly linking output with reward. Additionally, they offered a $200 bonus to all frontline employees during the pandemic.

HP also has a pay-for-performance philosophy that emphasizes variable pay and aligns executive compensation with stockholder value.


Target - one of the USA's biggest retailers - scaled back on holiday and seasonal hiring by focusing on improving the way they reward existing staff. They offer current employees who choose to work weekends and holiday shifts an extra $2 over the minimum wage of $15. This might not seem like much, but to some Target employees, that little bit extra can offer significant financial relief.

Once again, this approach directly ties performance goals to incentives, encouraging employees to improve their overall performance.

How to Implement an MBO Bonus Program in Your Organization

Here's how you can quickly and effectively implement an MBO bonus program:

Set clear criteria for MBO bonuses

Always start by setting clear and measurable criteria for each bonus. This involves defining specific, achievable targets that are directly tied to the strategic goals of the organization. If these criteria are clear, your staff will know what they have to get that bonus.

Transparency also minimizes confusion and unwanted disputes over why someone got a bonus and someone else didn't.

Align MBOs with overarching goals

This is a crucial step in ensuring that every individual effort contributes towards the main company goals. Managers should always work closely with their teams to set objectives. The objectives should advance individual careers while propelling the company towards its long-term goals. Alignment will foster a unified workforce.

You may also want to consider the average bonus percentage of your industry when deciding on the bonus amount.

Monitor employee performance and provide feedback

Continuously monitor and provide constructive feedback on your MBO program. Regular check-ins allow managers to track progress and address any issue as quickly as possible. This ongoing dialogue between employees and supervisors helps with goal adjustment, so everyone stays motivated.

It's also important to get feedback that's specific, actionable, and encouraging.

Reward achievement

Timely and fair rewarding of achievements is important for maintaining motivation and ensuring your MBO program is actually sustainable. When employees meet objectives, they need to be recognized and rewarded in exactly the way you promised you would. This boosts morale and reinforces the value of meeting targets.

Ensuring that rewards are consistent and visible also sets a positive standard in the company, encouraging staff to participate.

Alternatives to MBO Bonuses

As we said earlier, sometimes there are bonus strategies that could suit your organizational objectives better than others. So, to guide your decision, here are some good alternative bonus plans for MBOs:

Profit sharing bonus

A profit sharing bonus is when a percentage of company profits are distributed among staff. The bonus size depends solely on how hard employees work and the achievement of company goals. It helps everyone feel the company's success and is great for keeping bonuses within budget.

Annual bonus

Also known as a year-end bonus, an annual bonus is often a cash reward that's paid out at the end of a fiscal year. They're usually calculated as a percentage of an employee's annual salary.

Quarterly bonus

A quarterly bonus is given to employees four times during a fiscal year, at the end of each quarter. Companies like using this compensation plan to keep motivation levels consistent, year-round.

Commission based bonus

Most common in sales roles, commission-based bonuses are given out according to how much revenue an employee or sales team has generated over a certain period of time. You may hear of these being referred to as a performance bonus.

Spot bonus  

Spot bonuses are one-time rewards given out by managers sporadically. They're given to provide immediate recognition when employees exceed targets or make a positive contribution of sorts. Performance measurement and qualifying criteria vary quite a lot with spot bonuses.

Retention bonus

A retention bonus payment is made, usually to high-level decision-makers or top performers, periodically throughout the financial year. It aims to get top talent to stay at the company, especially during transitional periods.

Referral bonus

Employees can earn a referral bonus when they refer a candidate to the company who is successfully hired and, usually, is employed for a specific amount of time. This is a great strategy for reducing hiring costs.

Non-monetary bonus

Some companies opt to have a reward program that doesn't involve a cash exchange. Non-monetary bonuses can come in the form of extra vacation days or company swag. They can work very well for companies that are trying to avoid budgetary constraints.

Signing bonus

Signing bonuses are paid once upfront to people who've just joined the company. Organizations normally use this bonus plan as a way to attract the best talent in competitive industries, like the tech sector.

Anniversary bonus

Employers often like to make employees feel appreciated by giving them a bonus when they reach certain time-based milestones. Anniversary bonuses are most commonly given out when an employee has clocked a certain amount of time with the organization.

Holiday bonus

A holiday or Christmas bonus is given out at the end of a calendar year. The idea here is to usher in the festive season for employees.

Unlock Greater Team Success: Explore Profit Sharing with ShareWillow Today!

It's time for you to watch your team's performance metrics skyrocket. Take advantage of ShareWillow's innovative profit sharing plans to ensure your team's efforts are aligned with your company's financial success.

Our user-friendly platform simplifies the management and implementation of profit sharing, ensuring the utmost transparency and motivation across the workforce. Ready to boost morale and productivity? Start by checking out our free profit sharing template and see how ShareWillow can transform your compensation strategy today!

MBO Bonus FAQs

What is an MBO?

An MBO, or Management by Objectives, is a management model designed to improve organizational performance. It clearly defining objectives agreed on by management and employees.

MBO vs OKR: What’s the difference?

Although MBO and OKR (Objectives and Key Results) are both goal-setting frameworks, they differ in their application and flexibility. An MBO focuses more on setting and accomplishing specific targets within a set period, usually with a formal review and bonus at the end.  

With an OKR, the approach sets ambitious goals with key results that are regularly tracked and updated. OKRs are generally more fluid and able to adapt quickly to changes, which is why they're great for fast-paced industries.

What are the limitations of MBOs?

One significant drawback with MBOs is the rigidity in setting objectives. Sometimes, they don't adapt well to sudden changes in business conditions. Also, MBOs can occasionally lead to a narrow focus, where employees prioritize meeting certain targets over important tasks.

This can potentially stifle creativity and hinder an organization's capacity to innovate. Also, if you don't implement an MBO properly, it can lead to misalignment between individual objectives and broader organizational goals.


Ryan is the founder of ShareWillow. He's passionate about helping businesses create incentive plans that motivate and reward employees. He previously built and sold PhoneWagon.

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