“Know what you’re worth,” is the first step towards successfully negotiating a pay rise,” says Corinne Mills, joint managing director of Personal Career Management.
“You have to do your research, you have to look at what are the market rates.” To do so, you can look at salary survey audits in a particular sector and seniority level and it will give you a rundown of the benchmark salaries. Companies like PwC or Glassdoor will have that information available to help you establish whether you are being underpaid, about right, or already heading towards the top.
How to show your worth
The next thing you need to look at is “what is the value that I am bringing?” and “how am I going to prove that?” says Mills. Your busy manager likely takes a lot of stuff that you do for granted and you need to remind him or her that you are worth every penny. “You have to sit down and think what I have done this year in particular or within the past 18 months which has helped?” Examples could be “Have I helped save money? Have I helped improved quality, efficiency? Have I problem-solved? What disasters have I helped avert, what mistakes have I spotted? What ideas did I help bring about that meant there were new opportunities? So you’ve really got to have some concrete examples of that so that you can remind your manager.”
How to prove you’ve progressed
Another tactic is to show the difference between your role when your salary was first set and what you do now, argues Mills. This is not simply about cost-of-living increase. “You’re going to have to show how your contribution is substantially more and that might be because you’ve taken on new responsibilities,” she says. This could be as they’ve asked you to get involved in a new project, that you’ve had to cover for a colleague who was away, that your job has really changed. “If you can show that your job is actually quite different and it needs more intellectual capability and expertise or if you’ve had to do additional learning and are adding more people management responsibilities. These are all things that you can use to substantiate why the salary that I was given before doesn’t really reflect what I’m doing now.”
How to approach your manager
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to have the conversation with your manager. “It’s not a snatched conversation that you’re going to have in a corridor. You have to give it sufficient time and space to have a proper discussion” advises Mills. Preface that conversation by confirming you’re really happy in your job and don’t make it sound like an ultimatum that you’re underpaid and undervalued and may be heading out the door. Say things like “I’ve really enjoyed this year, it’s been challenging. I don’t know if you remember but we had this to contend with, we had that, but I did want to talk to you about my role. I wondered if we could talk about salary because I feel that what I’m doing now is different to when my salary was actually set.” Point out that when you looked up market rates, you could see that you were very much at the lower end. It’s always worth remembering that you’re expensive to replace, so it’s in your company’s interests to keep you happy and engaged.
Don’t wait for your annual review
Katie Donovan, head of Equal Pay Negotiations LLC, recommends asking for a raise off-cycle. “Don’t wait for your annual review. That’s decided so far in advance and there’s very little wiggle-room. You have to go off-cycle to get any kind of movement.” If your pay rise will not kick in until the next fiscal year then ask for it to be retroactive.
“I suggest you avoid saying an actual number up front,” adds Donovan. Most likely your research is low because when you do your research and find the median for the job that includes everyone, including the underpaid. Also keep in mind that several major factors determine your salary, not just your worth to the company. About 80% of the decision-making process depends on the overall market, argues Donovan. Do I live in the States, in London, in a suburb? What is your company’s ability and philosophy? “So those are the two things most of us never talk about and they’re the most important part. We focus all on ourselves and we’re the rounding error at the end of the decision.”
What if the answer is no?
It’s key to remember that you are unlikely to be given an instant answer. If your manager does say no, you have to be persistent, argues Mills. “Say ok I understand that but what needs to change for the answer to be yes? Or can we review this in six months, or when would be a good time to review this?” Always follow up your conversation. Ask your manager for advice about what to do in order to increase your salary. “Whatever they say, feed that back in an email, for example ‘thank you, that was a really constructive conversation. I was a bit disappointed that you can’t review my salary now but your agreement to review this in six months was very welcome’,” advises Mills. You can then use that email to flag up the issue again in a few months’ time. “And because it’s in writing, it’s a little bit harder for them to dismiss and there’s also that possibility that it could then be backdated to when you originally asked.”
Invest in your future
Gaining a professional qualification can be very helpful in requesting a pay rise. Being able to demonstrably prove that your skills and knowledge have improved by gaining a qualification makes it difficult for your employer to deny that you are worth more than you’re currently getting. Going on a course could also be a proactive step you could take after an initial refusal. AVADO offer the full range of AAT Accounting Qualifications all available online, meaning that you won’t need to take time off work to study and increase your earning potential.
Louise Taor is Marketing Manager at AVADO, the new name for Home Learning College.