While money shouldn’t be the sole motivator driving our careers, our salary plays a considerable role in our life; it supports our lifestyle, contributes to the greater economy and rewards our hard work. Yet, despite its significance, many employees feel uncomfortable discussing their salary with their employers. In a 2018 poll by U.S staffing agency Robert Half, only 39% of respondents negotiated their salary in their last job offer and in a separate study, only 37% of millennials had ever asked for a raise. This is to their detriment, as negotiating a higher salary can set employees on a more valuable trajectory - one that will reward them for many years to come. But most importantly, initiating salary negotiations has no negative consequences. The worst-case scenario is that your offer is declined and the best-case scenario is that you and your employer agree on a higher figure.
So, why are we reluctant to broach the issue? With so many people now either actively looking for jobs or starting a new position, it’s important to understand why there’s so much apprehension surrounding salary discussions and how candidates can feel more confident in knowing and communicating their worth when going through the final stages of the interview process.
Do Your Homework
In a recent Linkedin survey we conducted on salary negotiations during job interviews, the majority of respondents (26%) cited not knowing their worth as their biggest challenge. Salaries range greatly depending on industry, experience, and location, so it can be difficult to know if your salary is consistently aligning with your career progression. No matter if you’re actively job hunting or preparing for a performance review, knowing how your current or proposed salary compares to the industry standard, is integral to the negotiation process; it sets a benchmark that can then guide your decision on whether to accept a figure or make a counter-offer.
Researching salary rates can seem like an overwhelming process, but there are numerous organisations and online tools that can help. Australia’s leading online employment marketplace SEEK, suggest the best place to start is looking at different job postings for similar roles in your area so you can establish a ballpark salary range. Each state government in Australia should also have information on their website about award rates and their own pay calculator to help employees working within the public sector determine standard pay rates. This is highly beneficial to contract workers as hourly/daily rates can differ from organisation to organisation and industry to industry.
It’s also worthwhile to reach out to recruitment consultants that work within your particular industry, as recruiting for a number of diverse organisations gives them a unique perspective on competitive salary rates and what a realistic expectation would be based on your experience, location and overall career goals. There are even online platforms and bodies which can help calculate your worth. Global job site Glassdoor for example, has a ‘Know Your Worth’ tool which can provide a personalised estimated market value based on their available and previous job listings within your industry. Alternately, compensation software and data company PayScale, has developed a Salary Survey that employees can use to determine a customised salary report.
Another reason people avoided salary negotiations according to the same Linkedin survey, was because they didn’t have the confidence to ask for a higher salary or feared that doing so would jeopardise their job. These respondents aren’t alone in thinking this. In a survey conducted by Salary.com, 48% of respondents claimed to feel intimidated by the negotiation process, while PayScale discovered that 19% of their database were afraid that they would appear ‘too pushy’ if they asked for more money.
While salary can seem like a daunting topic, especially if you’ve never done it before, experts argue that a lot of the fear behind it is misguided. Most employers expect some level of negotiation and push back from new hires- 84% in fact, according to U.S based Equal Pay Negotiations LLC, Katie Donovan. If employers expect this level of push-back, why would they then rescind a job offer? Katie argues that during her many years of experience she knows of only one person who lost a job offer after attempting to negotiate salary, and that wasn’t because of the negotiation itself but the manner in which they approached the topic.
Ultimately, while it’s understandable to feel nervous or uncomfortable we shouldn’t let fear stop us from negotiating. If anything, we should be fearful of not being paid what we’re worth!
Below are some tips to help overcome the nerves when going into negotiations and strengthen your chances of success
1. Prepare your business case
When asking for a salary increase the inevitable question from employers will be, why? Why do you deserve a pay rise? Having a list of examples prepared that demonstrate how a business will benefit from your skills and experience, will help justify your request. Try and make your examples quantifiable to further illustrate the value of your potential contributions, for example, the graphic design skills and video editing knowledge you provide, save the company $xxx in outsourcing to a marketing agency. Preparing examples ahead of time will help with your confidence levels and being able to justify every additional dollar you’re asking for will reassure you that your demands are reasonable and present a more persuasive case to the company.
2. Pick your moment
If interviewing for a new job, it’s important not to raise the topic of salary in the initial stages as this can appear presumptuous and suggest that you’re only motivated by money, not the role itself. Instead, recruitment specialists suggest waiting until a job offer has been formally made and use this as a starting off point for negotiations.
3. Remain Professional
As the research indicates, you won’t be refused a higher salary for simply asking the question. However, you will if you don’t ask in the right way. It’s important that you request a salary range, rather than an exact figure and that this range is consistent with the market trends, to demonstrate that you’ve done your research but that you don’t want to be unreasonable. Furthermore, you want to be confident and enthusiastic when discussing your request but like with any work conversation you must remain professional and polite. Remember that a negotiation should result in both parties feeling like they’ve achieved or gained something, so try and convey your goal for a win-win solution in your tone and demeanour. Ultimately, you want your employer to feel as comfortable with the final arrangement as you do so you can start your working relationship on the right foot.
Before raising the topic of salary, practice the conversation and your business examples with a trusted colleague or mentor – ideally someone that’s familiar with the industry or the particular company. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel and talking to someone who’s had a similar experience can help you prepare for the unexpected and make a stronger case.
What if There’s No Room For Negotiation?
A final factor our Linkedin followers listed as a challenge when negotiating salaries were organisational budget restrictions. Indeed, the economic fallout from COVID-19 has forced many organisations to tighten their purse-strings. Furthermore, many government organisations will have strict budget guidelines that they have to adhere to normally. If your organisation is inflexible on your suggested starting salary there are still a few options available to you. Firstly, it’s important to remember that the dollar value of your salary represents only part of your total package. There are many other non-salary forms of compensation that can be used to help come to a compromise, including childcare, health and fitness benefits, flexible work schedules, university course reimbursement or training and professional development opportunities and organisations within the Public Sector have some great perks and benefits available to employees. With so many of us now working remotely and a greater importance being placed on maintaining work-life balance, perhaps having greater flexibility in your work schedule or being reimbursed for a particular certification that will help your career advancement is more valuable than an additional $2000 a year? It might also be more realistic option for employers within the public sector.
Secondly, you can ask your prospective employer how often they engage in performance reviews and how regularly opportunities to advance within the company are provided. Traditionally, performance reviews provide employees with the chance to discuss their salary, so knowing how often these are conducted (quarterly, yearly etc.) gives you an idea of when you can next broach the subject. Similarly, if you know the organisation routinely promotes from within, you know there will be future opportunities to progress (with the right amount of dedication) and this could be a quicker way to increase your salary.
If you’re still being met with resistance, it’s important to consider how important this salary increase is to your lifestyle and wellbeing. Should you look for another role or is having job security more important? Regardless of what you decide, it never hurts to keep up to date on comparable roles within the marketplace and their salary offering. While doing this, you can also focus on making yourself as marketable as possible. Things like partaking in additional training, industry activities and mentoring and volunteering opportunities ensure that you’re better prepared for any future roles that catch your eye, or for presenting your sales pitch when you have your next performance review.
If you’re interested in finding out more about your salary expectations and how they compare to the current industry trends, especially within the public sector reach out to our team of consultants for a confidential chat. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org