How to ask for a pay rise

CIPHR’s HR consultants share their top tips for asking for, and (hopefully) getting, your next pay rise

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Research by CIPHR reveals that nearly half (44%) of workers think they’re being paid less than they should be, considering their job role and experience. Yet many haven’t received, or even requested, a salary increase in over a year. Could it be as simple as: if you don’t ask, you don’t get?

CIPHR’s HR consultants share their top tips for asking for, and (hopefully) getting, your next pay rise:

 
Research is key

Gwenan West MCIPD, HR consultant and head of people and talent at CIPHR:

“Before you even contemplate asking for a pay rise, ask yourself ‘why’. Do you feel undervalued? Are you paid significantly less than the market rate? Have you taken on more responsibility?

“Research is key. What salaries are similar roles being advertised at? Many recruitment agencies publish salary surveys, so you can use these as a comparison and get a better understanding of what’s a reasonable amount to request.

“Be aware of your employer’s salary review process and if there are any specific processes you need to follow to request a review of your pay. This will vary from company to company and will be highly regulated in some industries.

“Be professional and strategic in your request. Plan out what you want to say in advance and have some notes at hand to refer to. Your request should set out the reason for the request and show that you have done your research. Provide any data you have gathered in an easy-to-read format for your line manager to take away.

“Don’t forget to plan the timing of your request. Ensure you have your line manager’s full attention, so request a meeting in advance if required. Set out your request in a calm professional manner and try to avoid emotive language.”

Support your case

Shirley Bousfield MCIPD, strategic HR consultant at CIPHR:

“Preparing for the conversation will definitely help increase the likelihood of a successful outcome, so ensure you have objective evidence to support your case.

“Research the market online to benchmark pay for your job role, sector and location. This will help identify your pay range and if your pay is below average. If your job role has changed recently, prepare a list of additional responsibilities. And if you have an official job description, ask if this can be reviewed to add in any updates. If your company has an open pay grading structure and/or job evaluation process in place, discuss with your manager whether it is appropriate to re-evaluate your role. Reviewing the available pay data will help you determine how realistic your request is, but it’s also important to consider the overall climate in the business and how it’s performing as a whole. If your company has been struggling and there have been redundancies and/or other cutbacks, then your chance of agreeing a pay rise is likely to be reduced.

“When preparing a list of achievements always be specific, with performance data where possible. You should include details about your contributions to projects and how this has benefited the company, and provide examples of positive recognition received from your customers or accolades from colleagues.

“Once you have gathered your supporting evidence, arrange a time to speak with your manager. If your company has an annual performance review process, then this can be the ideal time to discuss this, or at the point of budget planning to ensure increases are catered for. However, if your role has changed and you have taken on additional responsibilities or a new project, then it could be more appropriate to discuss this at the time (rather than retrospectively). Give your manager a heads up about what you want to discuss and ensure you have adequate time and will not be interrupted, which will help optimise the setting for your proposal being fully considered.”

What’s the worst you could be told – no?

Courtney Thompson-Ayerst Assoc CIPD, HR consultant and implementation team lead at CIPHR:

“There is a stigma around pay rises, and many employees think that asking for a pay rise will always result in a negative outcome. Personally, I believe that this can be argued in two ways.

“The first is that some employees feel entitled. By that I mean they will only do what is required of them yet expect more and more from their employer. They do not take into consideration all the ‘little’ extras, which actually make up their full employment costs to company.

“Secondly, if as an employee you believe that you should earn ‘what you are worth’ and want a pay rise that reflects this, then evidence is critical. Make sure you have a strong argument to back up the reasons why you deserve this pay rise. Book in a formal meeting with your manager, which enables you to highlight, with meaningful conversation, all the reasons why you believe your worth warrants a pay rise. Canteen conversations and comparisons with other colleagues is not enough evidence to support your request. Having an open discussion is always the best way to approach a pay rise. Many employees look outside of their organisation as a form of negotiation, which can sometimes end in the wrong outcome. When, in fact, all that was needed was a simple conversation with their employer. It can make all the difference between feeling valued in the job you’ve got and (hopefully) earning what you want to earn – or, the alternative, feeling resentful and undervalued at work.”

Timing is crucial

Laurie Mahmood Assoc CIPD, HR consultant and head of implementation services at CIPHR:

“I am a strong believer that employers should put processes in place to ensure they are paying their employees competitively and to help reduce the chance of employees asking for a pay rise. Salary benchmarking, yearly salary reviews, clear development plans, and visibility of total compensation are all useful ways of supporting this. Every organisation, however, will have cases where employees may feel that they deserve a pay rise.

“My advice to anyone who is considering approaching their manager is, firstly, do it face-to-face – a in person or via video call. It shows that you are serious and allows you to challenge your request and answer questions your manager may have. It also gives you the opportunity to assess their reaction, an opportunity that sending an email doesn’t allow. Although, I would advise preparing for your meeting by writing down your case, which can help you organise your thoughts and can be emailed after the meeting.

“Secondly, do your research – as you need to build a strong case. Looking at the market rate, and compare your salary to those of others doing a similar job, internally and externally, by looking at Glassdoor, LinkedIn and browsing job boards.

“Thirdly, wait for the right time. Timing is crucial. This may mean waiting until you have completed the project you are involved in, or when you are asked to take on more responsibility. It’s important not to ask at the wrong time, such as, for example, just after your employer has announced a recruitment freeze or poor financial results, as it’s unlikely the organisation will be increasing anyone’s pay.

“Lastly, keep it positive – listing all your accomplishments, successes, and evidence of where you are going above and beyond, will certainly help support your case. Regardless of how the conversation goes, keep it professional and thank your manager for their time.

“If you feel, after following that process, you are not making any progress with your employer, it may be time to look for a new role.”