what is the best way to ask for a pay rise?

There’s a question many people consistently grapple with at work. “Should I wait to be given a pay rise based on my work ethic, results, achievements, loyalty, tenure, and contribution to the organisation? Or should I take the lead, be proactive and ask for a pay rise?” The answer is, it’s really up to you. But the recommendation from our recruitment specialists at HR Partners is if you believe you deserve a pay rise and it doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, put a strong case together and ask for it. Here are some tips to give yourself the best chance of getting the pay rise you want.

1. do your market research. 

Find out what you are worth in the market. There's no point going to your boss and asking for a pay rise without knowing what is fair in the current market and providing them with facts and evidence. Conduct research online with relevant industry associations. A good starting point is the HR Partners annual salary survey that highlights remuneration and benefits trends and movements.  

It's also a good idea to reach out to a recruitment consultant as they have the most up-to-date knowledge on what your role is worth in the market.

2. put your case together.

This will take time, but it’s worth it. Prepare a list of key achievements and results you’ve had in the last year, or since you last had a pay rise. How have you contributed to business growth, development, and expansion, business innovation, team morale or company culture? Where possible, provide facts, with proof and examples of these achievements including supporting documentation such as copies of client, peer and management emails, reports, results, and past performance appraisals.Prepare a presentation or proposal, which outlines and illustrates to your boss these significant, tangible results and demonstrates just how valuable you are to the team and to the company. Your presentation should make a very strong case as to why you deserve the raise. But it’s important to remember not to be unreasonable with what you are asking for.

3. rehearse, prepare, anticipate.

This stage is critical for success. Visualise how you would like the conversation to flow with your boss and practice your delivery. Keep it factual. Anticipate difficult and challenging questions and comments and practice your responses. Put yourself in the shoes of your boss, as this will help you anticipate their mindset, thought process, and avoid you being shocked, surprised or disillusioned by their responses. If you expect and plan for the worst-case scenario, you will hopefully be pleasantly surprised.

Ask a friend or family member to role-play the conversation with you, as this may help refine your pitch. Likely responses to prepare for might be:

  • I don’t have budget/you missed the budget cut-off
  • The company is under-performing, I can’t afford to give you a pay rise
  • The economic outlook and business conditions aren’t good, now is not the time
  • I need you to outperform in your role not just deliver what is expected of you
  • No-one has been given a pay rise

If you plan for these responses, you will avoid the ‘shock factor’ your boss was possibly hoping for to make the conversation more testing. You will be ready. Be well-prepared, well-rehearsed, professional, determined, and confident in your delivery as it will contribute to a positive outcome.

Wherever possible use positive language emphasising results and outcomes demonstrating how you are outperforming or exceeding expectations, with phrases such as: “I delivered...”; “This contributed to…”; “I am committed to…”; “I created…”; “This resulted in…”; “This achieved...”.

4. choose the right time and place.

Timing is critical. These are the golden rules to be aware of to help you decide when the best time is to ask:

  • Company processes: When does your company run performance reviews? When are budgets prepared and signed off? If you want to align with this timing, ensure your request can be incorporated well in advance to be signed off in the new budget.
  • Calendar dates: Are you near the end of or start of the financial year, or similarly, the end or beginning of the calendar year? Consider this timing, the impact, and your key points in relation to these dates.
  • Your boss: Consider the mood, mindset, and current priorities of your boss to decide when, or more importantly, when not to ask.
  • Company performance: How is the company currently performing? Did the company achieve its goals and GP targets? What is the outlook? Be aware of this to prepare for a potentially challenging conversation and anticipate difficult questions.
  • Your performance: Have you recently finished a major project and achieved strong results for the company? Have your duties and responsibilities expanded? Can you demonstrate a greater rate of efficiency or contributed to an increase in results or revenue generation? If so, now would be the ideal time to ask and get your case ready (see below).
  • Date and time: Is morning better than an afternoon? What about early morning, before official working hours begin? Or what about taking a working lunch to discuss? What do you think would work best for your boss to keep them engaged, receptive and focussed?
  • Location: Consider going offsite for this discussion to avoid interruptions and distractions. Or book an office or boardroom which is out of sight from your team and difficult for people to find you. 

Once you are ready and have decided on the time, ask for 15-30 minutes in your boss’ calendar for a chat.

5. have a plan b.

If you’ve tried your best to respond to being told no or not now to a pay rise, and the answer is still no, you need to use your back-up plan by discussing non-monetary benefits which won’t have a direct impact on budgets. 

  • Upskilling: Discuss approval for a training course, seminar or workshop which will help you upskill and therefore benefitting the team and the company.
  • Flexibility: Request more flexibility in your role without a pay-cut, which effectively becomes a pay rise. You could discuss a 9-day fortnight, a 4-day week, reduced hours (e.g school hours, late start, early finish) or working from home 2-3 days a week. To help your boss better understand the benefits of flexible working, read our research in the Randstad Workmonitor… and even feel free to direct your boss to this article and the full report.
  • Benefits: Understand all the benefits currently available to you as an employee and decide where there are gaps to better support you in your role. Are you caring for a baby/toddler? Do you need counselling, coaching, or mentoring? Do you need to improve your health and fitness? Common requests are support or subsidies with health and life insurance, gym memberships, childcare, EAP, or further education.

6. always keep it professional.

Don’t get emotional and certainly don’t let raw emotion drive your behaviour. It will just end badly, and you won’t end up with the outcome you want. Focus on the facts, your evidence, your key messages, and deliver it in a business-like manner. Personify the values of the company.

If the meeting still doesn’t go as planned, stay calm, and use the remainder of your meeting to discuss your career development plan. Discuss the necessary steps required to achieve your salary expectations and make a note of this in a follow-up email or incorporate into your performance review.

Agree on a set time to have the salary review and ensure this is diarised. Use this time to build on all the material you prepared so that when the date rolls round, your business case is even stronger to help you get the pay rise you deserve.

If however, you decide you will never get the salary you deserve, it’s probably time for you to look for a new job, with a boss/company that will pay you what you are worth.

7. don’t be afraid… just do it.

Yes, you might be nervous, yes it could be a difficult conversation and yes you may not get the exact result you want, but the more prepared you are heading into this meeting, and the more you incorporate these critical steps into your planning and delivery, the higher your chances of getting the pay rise and benefits you hope for. 

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