How to ask for a raise – and get it

aat comment

Asking for a raise can be a challenging conversation for any employee.

It requires having the ability to articulate your value and accomplishments in terms that are meaningful to your boss.

No easy feat – especially after the GFC, when many companies have withdrawn regular salary reviews, requiring employees to approach their employers directly for increases. While this can be an intimidating process, with the right preparation you can walk confidently into a negotiation.

When should I ask for a raise?

Timing is everything when making a request. AAT’s Human Resources Manager Dawn Pike advises understanding the processes and policies in place in your organisation first.

“Most organisations have an annual performance review process, which provides a good opportunity. In many cases this will be already linked to a wider salary structure. If there is no such system in place, you may wish to organise a meeting with your manager specifically to discuss performance related pay. It may be that there is a policy which specifies when requests will be considered, therefore it is useful to do some research before asking. You may wish to request a copy of the pay policy or speak with HR if there isn’t one in place.”

In informal or small workplaces it’s useful to understand when budgets are determined. Approaching your manager after a budget has been set gives them little ability to grant your request if the money has been allocated elsewhere, even if they’d like to reward you. The accountants in the business are your go-to people to work out when budgets are determined.

What approach should I use to speak to my manager about a raise?

Don’t tack a pay increase conversation onto the end of an unrelated meeting or over your morning walk to grab a take-away coffee. Ensure that your manager has time to discuss your proposal and is prepared to address your points. Catching your manager off-guard may make it difficult for them to give your request the consideration it deserves. Dawn suggests one-to-ones and performance review meetings are a good place to introduce pay review. “Ensure to bring examples of your achievements along to your performance review meetings. Once you have talked through these perhaps address pay with an open question. For example: ‘I’ve been having a think about these achievements and whether they are fairly reflected in my pay. What are your thoughts?’” Use this approach to open up the conversation and then set a second meeting to discuss your points in detail.

How do I best highlight my achievements?

It’s important to recognise that just having worked somewhere for a certain period of time is rarely a compelling argument for promotion. You need to successfully demonstrate how you have exceeded in your role. “Prepare yourself before the meeting by having a read through your job description. Highlight the areas where you have progressed and consider why these are at a higher level. For example, perhaps you are now able to make decisions autonomously or have taken on more complex tasks. This will provide a good evidence base to support your request,” Dawn says.

Also look at finding ways to quantify your achievements. Can you demonstrate how much money or time you have saved the company because of your actions? Look at your accomplishments and identify anything that works faster or more efficiently as a result of your efforts.  It could be as simple as: you reduced the number of meetings you had on a project, saving your company and team members time. Or perhaps you have proactively built relationships with key people in other teams ensuring your projects experience less red-tape. It’s good practice to regularly assess your accomplishments and quantify them in this way throughout the year.

My manager is pretty hands off. How can I show them my accomplishments?

With the rise of flexible working and flatter organisational structures, you might work with a high level of autonomy or with limited face-to-face time with your manager. Articulating your successes with examples and seeking testimonials is particularly important in this case.”Make sure to include examples that demonstrate where you have supported the wider organisation objectives and used your initiative. You may also wish to request feedback from colleagues to share with your manager. Perhaps you have worked closely with someone on a project or offered to help train a newer member of staff,” advises Dawn.

How much should I ask for?  

If there is a salary structure in place this should provide you with an idea of what an appropriate request would be. Where this is not the case you may wish to carry out some research as to the average pay rates of similar roles within your sector. Use tools such as Payscale or to give you some guidance. Search for job roles and assess where your salary falls in comparison to the rates advertised. In your negotiations consider all aspects of your package. Perhaps you would want more flexible working days or the opportunity to receive training. Identify your must-haves, nice-to-haves and could-do-withouts. This tactic allows you to concede items on your could-do-without list that have little value for you but make the other party feel successful about the negotiation.

What do I do if I get a no?

“It can be quite a difficult message to receive, but try to approach this response positively,” says Dawn. “Your manager should provide the reasoning behind the decision, but if not you should ensure to ask. This information will help you to identify the areas which require further development and work towards them for the next time.”

Dale Rolfe is AAT's Content Manager.

Related articles