Careers advice: How to negotiate a pay rise

29 September 2017

Our natural reaction when we feel undervalued and underpaid at work is to look for a promotion or a move to a rival firm. By the time our employer notices our real value and offers a pay rise to stay, it’s too late. Here are our tips for how to boost your salary before you reach the resignation stage:

Consider what you really want
It’s easy to convince yourself you’re underpaid when you feel underappreciated or taken for granted at work. Make sure you’re focusing on the real issue. Would a more generous remuneration package really make you happier? Perhaps a new job challenge, more influence, better training and development or greater work flexibility would make a bigger difference. Whatever you decide to negotiate, the following tips should help you achieve your goal.

Know your value
You will need to convince yourself that you’re worth a pay rise before you can convince your boss. Remind yourself of the skills, experience, expertise, contacts, organisational and industry knowledge you bring. Think about how you add value to your firm – whether that’s in helping achieve strategic objectives, generating income, increasing efficiency or building relationships with customers. Gather evidence of your achievements and quantify wherever possible.

Check the market
Do your research to gauge the market rate for similar roles in your sector. Visit sites such as glassdoor and payscale to get a rough guide and look at job advertisements. In senior or specialist roles, you may want to discuss market salary levels with recruiters. Reach out to your personal networks, while not everyone will disclose their salary package, you may get clues on salary ranges and trends. Don’t forget to compare the whole package including pension, annual leave, health benefits and so on, not just the headline salary.

Do your research: Check the market rate for similar roles in your sector

Strike while the iron is hot
The best time to request a pay rise is just after you have achieved something significant for the organisation or gone beyond the normal responsibilities of your role to deliver results. This could be just after hooking a new client, driving through a re-organisation or achieving a very positive appraisal.

Prepare a business case
You will need to put together a convincing case as to why the organisation should pay you more based on your specific contribution and the market value of someone with your experience and track record. Gather as many metrics and as much evidence as you can. Arrange a formal meeting or raise the issue at your next performance review. Be clear what you are asking for. It’s important that you stress your continuing enthusiasm for the job. Make it clear that you’d love to stay longer with the firm if you can just resolve this issue. Practice your pitch with a friend and ask for feedback.

Know what’s achievable
Think about the flexibility that your line manager will have, they may be concerned about setting a precedent or may have to seek permission from HR. Look at the whole package: if there is less headroom for a salary rise perhaps you could negotiate better fringe benefits, more annual leave, support for a professional qualification or work flexibility. In some sectors pay grades may be rigidly controlled through job evaluation but you may be able to move within the scale. There may be more flexibility in offering a bonus rather than increasing the headline salary.

Deal with objections
The most likely objection you will face will be that the organisation cannot afford to pay you more at this time. If you have brought in income for the firm or reduced costs or errors this is the time to point it out. You can also explore whether there are extra responsibilities you could take on that could enable your manager to justify an increase, for example by reducing reliance on external consultants. If you focus on finding a win-win solution, are flexible about improving your benefits package overall and present an evidence based argument, this should get results. If you manager requests time to think about it, ensure you have a follow up date to check progress.

Protect the relationship
It’s important that you don’t threaten to leave unless you are willing to do so immediately as your manager may call your bluff. Don’t let resentment at the situation leak out or become adversarial. Rather than making statements and demands, it is better to put your case in a tentative way and ask questions to explore what is possible. “What potential is there to increase my package to closer to the market rate?” works better than “I want £x and I may look elsewhere if I don’t get it.”

End on a positive
If the answer is ”‘No” or “Not at the moment”’ then ask “Under what circumstances would the situation change? How could I grow my role to justify a higher salary? What else could I deliver?”. Request a review after three or six months during which time you can gather more evidence and review your options. It’s likely your manager will want to keep you and will come back with a counter offer. Handled well, there is every chance that your salary renegotiation will boost your credibility in the organisation as well as your salary.