The key ingredients to landing a pay increase are planning, preparation and communication. Stick to these core components and, assuming you have a good sense of your abilities and your company, you're in with a good chance of success.
First thing's first though: be honest. Around two thirds (65%) of British workers believe they are not paid enough and, on average, feel they are underpaid by £5,250 per year, according to research by Unum, the UK disability insurer. So are you really of more value to your business than what you're being paid? Have you been consistently outperforming your colleagues? If so, great! Let's make sure you get what you deserve....
You don't want to bluster up to your boss in the heat of the moment and demand an urgent 5-minute meeting to unleash your grievances. Consider the best time for you and the most amenable for your line manager. When will they have a comparatively pressure-free period in a typical week? When are they in a good mood, but also attentive?
Julian Allen, senior operations manager to 15 staff at a London-based digital media company, believes timing is essential. “To be honest, my staff have a hard time persuading me they deserve a pay rise. But to agree a discussion at the end of particular project or key phase is a good way of starting that persuasion.”
Request a meeting for a good week or so in advance. Don't show all your wares just yet by declaring the subject of the meeting 'pay rise', but make sure your manager understands it's important you have a quality, uninterrupted time to discuss your performance.
Write out the reasons why you think you warrant a pay increase. Now back it up with evidence. And back it up again. Drawing out tangible, high-profile and relevant facts is essential. Concentrate on your individual achievements, not those of your team. Use known, firm statistics, especially commercial ones, wherever possible. It might help to run through this simple checklist:
- What did you do?
- How did you do it?
- What was special about it?
- What value did it deliver to the business?
- Did it exceed your expected level of performance?
- Is it additional to the scope of your role?
“You need to show you are delivering more than was originally expected,” says Julian. “Look at your contract or job description and see if you have taken on more responsibility. That’s what works on me.”
Don't name and shame your colleagues – make it personal to you, not personal to anyone else – but also don't shy away from comparing and contrasting what you have done with the behaviours and achievements of most others in your role or at your level.
You should also be able to demonstrate what you hope to achieve in the next 18 months and how you could improve your work.
Know your market and your value to the business. Try to find out what people in comparable positions in the firm or at rival companies earn. You can see what salary you can expect today from our latest retail jobs.
Ultimately, communication is the key. A clear, well-structured argument that's presented in a lucid and engaging way, could well be all the final evidence they need to confirm you are worthy of a higher salary.
But remember, this is billed as a discussion, not a one-way seminar in how great you are. So be prepared for extensive dialogue. Consider what questions and comments your boss may throw at you. They could get pretty tough. Put yourself in their shoes. What will convince them? What difficulties may they have in giving you a pay rise? They may have concerns over how to justify it to their boss, so make your business case senior enough to persuade the highest echelons. They may have to justify this decision to an approver in HR. Again, build your reasoning so that it appeals to HR sensibilities and objectives as well.
Practice your pitch with a friend. You'll hopefully get some great direct feedback on your approach and will feel more comfortable in delivering your rationale when it comes to the real thing.
And be open-minded. Pay is only one part of the job package. Your boss may be able to more feasibly offer you an improved bonus package or travel allowance scheme.
Finally, if it’s not going to plan, stay calm.
“Talking about looking at other options outside the company because you want to be paid more is not a route I would recommend,” says Julian. “It will only result in short-term gain at the most and could damage your longer-term career progression. The best approach is to agree a way forward. Set out a plan with your line manager that would persuade him you are worthy of that pay rise.”