Gain Sharing vs. Profit Sharing

Topics: Profit sharing, Profit, 401(k) Pages: 11 (3622 words) Published: September 22, 2007

April 5, 2007

Gainsharing and Profit-sharing are incentive plans that are designed to pay employees incentives based upon good company performance. By using these plans, companies found that employees are motivated to stay with the company longer. Because employees can directly affect the output of a company they will also work harder to achieve selected goals when incentives are attached. However, incentive plans are not appropriate for every company and business must find a way to put the plan to good use in a fair and productive way.

Gainsharing Vs. Profit Sharing
Gainsharing and profit-sharing are incentive plans that are both designed to pay employees beyond their normal wages upon good company performance. The two plans are similar in that they both payout when company performance goals are met. While both plans motivate employees to do what is in the best interest for the company, the two plans also contrast in different ways.

Gainsharing links employee performance to savings resulting in payouts, while profit-sharing links financial success of the total organization to payouts. Typically, gainsharing applies to a single plant, while profit-sharing applies to the entire organization.1 With gainsharing typically applied to a single plant, employees of that plant are usually involved in the design process of the plan. A typical plan is based on comparison of a baseline performance to actual performance for a given period.2 Employees involved directly in the process are ideal for defining those baselines and metrics for quantifying both baseline and actual performance. On the other hand, profit-sharing is based on year-end profits. Therefore, the only employee involvement is typically from managers and employees who are responsible for tasks and higher level decisions that can impact the bottom line. This difference between the two plans is most likely the reason all employees are usually eligible to participate in gainsharing, whereas some groups such as union and hourly employees are sometimes excluded from profit-sharing plans.

By design, gainsharing is based on comparison of actual performance with base line performance. Therefore, employees in a gainsharing plan are more motivated and driven to improve productivity and cut costs. In a profit-sharing plan, employee motivation may be limited, since many employees feel that their impact on year-end profits for the entire company may be insignificant. Also, the drive for better performance in gainsharing usually forces employees and manager to rid themselves of the "Us vs. them" attitude so that they work together to achieve gainsharing goals3. This unity may lack when profit-sharing is the only plan in the company.

One of the key attributes of a gainsharing plan is that employees are involved, and therefore must be able to identify with the company's operations such as manufacturing methods, costs, products, prices, and customers4. This attribute is usually non-existent in a profit-sharing plan due to the lack of employee involvement. Another attribute of gainsharing is that the plan demands a high level of competence from the employees. Employees must innovate to solve problems when challenged with goals imposed by gainsharing. This competency feature is usually missing in a profit-sharing plan, since most employees are not given any performance goals.

The high level employee involvement in gainsharing typically leads the way to an "Employee Suggestion System", another attribute of many gainsharing plans. Employees to management submit productivity improvement or cost-cutting suggestions5. Typically, a review committee is responsible for identifying and implementing those suggestions, which are deemed valuable and practical to implement. Employee Suggestion Systems, on the other hand, may be difficult to implement in companies with only profit-sharing because there may be a lack of employee...
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