Most of us would dearly love some more money in our bank account every month.
In fact, in a survey of US employees, one in three said they would look for a new job if they didn’t get a pay increase in the next 12 months, according to Glassdoor.com.
But pay rises are elusive and hard won. And, they're usually not as generous as we'd like. Of the 35% of UK employees who are expecting an increase in salary in the next 12 months, about half expect it to be 2% or less, according to Glassdoor research. In Australia, pay in 2015 is projected to grow by 1.65% on average, according to recruitment consultancy firm Robert Walters. “Pay rises exist, but they are modest,” said Kate Southam, a career coach in Australia.
“Since the global financial crash, there has been a change to the workplace regarding employment generally and pay specifically,” said Simon North, a UK career expert with career consulting firm Position Ignition. He points to organisations that are more uncertain about the future, the fact that there have been significant layoffs, and a bigger use of contract workers. “These elements have made getting raises at work less common,” North said. “Until recent months, wage increases have been between zero and very low. It is starting to shift upwards, however.”
If you think you’ve been doing outstanding work and you deserve better compensation, there are steps to take before you walk into your boss’s office. Here’s how it works.
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What it will take: Be prepared to talk about why you deserve a raise, why you should get it now and how much you should receive. And, timing is important. You should also research and quantify how valuable you are to your company by looking at the market. “Don’t wing it,” said Lindsey Pollak, a US workplace expert and author of Becoming the Boss.
How long you need to prepare: Experts suggest preparing several months before you ask. “Getting a raise starts six months before, when you start standing out and adding extra value to your organisation,” said Alan Kearns, a career coach in Canada and founder of CareerJoy.com.
Do it now: Get your timing right. If your company is struggling or reorganising, it’s probably not the right moment to make a play for more cash. However, just ahead of your regular pay review, when your supervisors are starting to think about compensation, may be a good time. If there is no annual review, it will depend on your individual situation. “For example, if someone within your team leaves, you may take on more responsibility,” North said. “The projects you are working on may have a higher profile and be seen by the organisation to have greater visibility and value.” That’s a good time to broach the topic.
Don’t use your colleague as a crowbar. Salaries are more transparent than they used to be, and you might be aware that your colleague with the same job title makes more money than you. That doesn’t mean you should bring it up. Instead, refer to market rates for your job description and experience in your city. “Quoting that salary of a colleague as justification for your pay rise request?” Southam said. “So, so, so bad for your career.”
Research geographically. But, use caution when comparing your job with market rates, because salaries vary dramatically by location. “Salary sites can be helpful, but it’s often very hard to pinpoint by region or by company,” Pollak said. “Salaries in New York and San Francisco [in the US] would be very different from other places.” Local professional associations may provide information on salary benchmarking. As a starting point, however, you can check sites such as Salary.com in the US and Payscale.com and Glassdoor.com for salaries in a variety of countries.
Make your case. You must make a business case to back your pitch. “Where have you shown yourself to be of great value and a real asset to the organisation?” North said. “Use as many objective measures as possible. Show how your actions and initiative have saved the business money and drawn in extra revenue.” Have you taken on more duties since a colleague left? Did you lead the team that landed that lucrative client? Be able to point to your accomplishments and quantify them.
If possible, avoid complaining or using negative language. Times may have been hard for everyone. Maybe no one has been given a pay rise for three years. Stick to the good things you’ve done to deserve more money — and leave any personal reasons or negativity out of it.
Focus on the big picture. An improvement to your working life doesn’t have to be about the money in your bank account. “What about things like working from home?” Kearns said. “What about a title change? What about being sponsored on courses? There are all kinds of things you can negotiate that can actually have longer term benefits for you.” If your organisation is strapped for cash or you just don’t think more money is likely, consider asking for more vacation time or a more flexible work schedule instead.
Don’t bully. Maybe you’re prepared to leave a job if you don’t get more money, but there’s probably no utility in telling your boss that. “Never announce it ahead of time,” Southam said. “No one likes being threatened, including your manager.”
Be prepared for ‘No.’ If your boss turns you down, that doesn’t have to be the end of your discussion. Ask if your boss would be willing to reassess in six months. “And if I come back to you in six months, what would I have to have accomplished in that time to make you answer ‘yes?’” Pollak said.
Do it later: Keep building your brand. If you're not successful— or even if you are — keep excelling. “Do great work, because if you can’t get rewarded where you are, then you’re going to create opportunities for you for other options,” Kearns said. “And when you have other options, you have far more negotiating power.”
Do it smarter: Get yourself a mentor. One of the most helpful resources for your future career is someone in your industry with more experience than you. “This is usually not your boss, but someone in your organisation, perhaps of a different generation, a little bit older than you, who’s knows the ropes and who knows what’s appropriate,” Pollak said. A mentor can help you determine whether it’s a good time to bring up a pay rise — and how much to go for. “That can be very valuable,” he said.