When and how to negotiate your salary

Business Impact: When and how to negotiate your salary
Business Impact: When and how to negotiate your salary

Discussing salaries and negotiating a pay rise is hard. Throwing the concept of salary transparency into the mix threatens to complicate matters even further.

But, what do employees really think about salary transparency and discussing their pay?

The overwhelming majority of job applicants (98%) in the UK wish to know the salary before applying to a role, while 81% of respondents say that employers should be required to disclose salary information in a job description, according to Talent.com’s new research into salary transparency. For job seekers, salary matters.

Yet when it comes to being in a role, the survey discovered that 39% of Gen Z employees are uncomfortable discussing their salary and 35% of Gen Z feel that they have experienced pay discrimination due to to age.

For those less confident in discussing pay, this discomfort can result in salary stagnation and could even cost them money, particularly in an inflationary economy. So, here is some advice on how to negotiate salary, particularly if it’s your first time, as may be the case for many Gen Z employees. Salary discussion need not be the preserve of the most confident or experienced few. Plus, once you’ve done it, it’s a skill you can use throughout your career.

What to remember

Asking for a pay rise isn’t personal. Salaries feel personal when equated with your worth, when instead you should relate it to your value. What measurable value do unique set of skills bring to the role? What additional efforts are you making to improve your company’s prospects? What evidence do you have that you are currently being undervalued, in relation to your achievements?

Crucially – asking for a pay rise isn’t about the money. We’d all like to earn more money, but businesses can’t determine salaries by what each staff member ‘would like’ to earn. Instead, when you demonstrate your value – and that you bring more value to the company than what is currently reflected in your pay – then it’s time to address the imbalance. It’s just business – a transaction of services in exchange for appropriate pay.

How to prepare for a salary discussion

There are several things you should have in place before any salary discussion. First up, do your research: how much money are you asking for? Base your request on hard numbers – what do employees in similar positions at other comparable companies earn?

You may also want some awareness of what colleagues around you are earning, as any raise should be anchored in the value you bring to your team. When those around you progress, you may have taken on additional responsibilities for which you should be compensated.

Once you have determined a number, it’s time to prepare your business case. You need to demonstrate what makes you worth paying more based on your achievements and successes. Why have you, as opposed to another candidate, excelled in this role? We recommend you collect specific examples of work you have done, additional hours taken on, or team responsibilities, such as management of other staff, that demonstrate the value you have added since accepting the job.

When to meet

If you’ve never requested a salary increase before, you may lean towards chatting about it in a regular team meeting, tagging it onto the end of another catchup, or even dropping it in an email, to soften the expected discomfort of the conversation. Needless to say, these are all bad ideas.

Any discussion of salary increase should take place face-to-face, in a designated meeting or one-to-one catchup. The last thing you want is your manager to be distracted, such as when you’ve been discussing daya-to-day work, or by receiving a request in their inbox in the middle of the day. Your manager should be in a position where they are open to listening to your business case and be impacted by it.

It goes without saying, but only ask for a pay rise when the company is succeeding. If the company is experiencing setbacks or financial challenges, asking for a pay rise only serves to demonstrate how out of touch you are with the company, which can have a negative impact on your reputation. Your core message should always be: I am a top performer who is currently undercompensated. Top performers are in sync with the current state of the business, they understand that salaries are a transaction, and should be dealt with head on.

In the meeting

Now there’s nothing left to do but make your request. Keep it positive and stay professional – discussions of salary increases are never a time for threats or ultimatums. Remember why you’re asking for a pay rise – because you have achieved success in your role and see the prospect of appropriate remuneration for future work.

If you are turned down on this occasion, remain respectful and make every effort to understand why. It certainly doesn’t preclude you from asking again further down the line. You can enquire as to what might increase your chances of a pay rise in the future, and on what timeline you can expect to progress. Ultimately, you want to demonstrate your commitment to growing in your position and with the company.

Noura Dadzie is a senior vice president at job platform Talent.com, where she manages and oversees UK and international sales operations. She has more than 20 years of experience in online recruitment and software-as-a-service solutions.

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