I spoke off the record recently with a Director of Human Resources – the very top dog – for a very large entity. I used the chance during my casual conversation with her to ask what employees should do to increase the odds of getting a pay raise. Here’s what she said:
- Focus on your potential, not your past. She says you should focus heavily on the contributions you will be making, not the ones you made in the past. Sure, past accomplishments are important. But they’ve been paid for. To get a pay increase now, she told me, talk about the increased workload you’re going to take on, the increased availability you’re going to have, the business development efforts you’re going to undertake. Don’t ask them to pay for the meal they already ate, she says. Pitch the price increase for the meal you’re about to serve.
- Find out what others earn in the same or substantially similar positions. The HR chief says valuable data about what to ask for is everywhere, but almost no one looks for it. This is helpful when you’re paid less than either peers or new hires. “I can’t figure it out,” she says. “We post quite a bit online about salaries, bonuses and so on, but almost no one checks it.” The result is that people come in asking for too little or, worse, swinging for the fences and aiming too high. By doing so, she says, they miss the sweet pay increase the company would have given. She sounded exasperated. “For goodness’ sake, check Monster, Glassdoor [glassdoor.com, a site for job seekers that contains salary data and posts by current/former employees of companies about pay and working conditions], or reach out to people on LinkedIn who worked here. Do something!”
- Move quickly, when coworkers leave, to grab their work – and their pay. She says the company loves it when an employee offers to pick up extra work that would result in the elimination of a position. Under these circumstances, a pay increase is almost a guarantee, she observes, and the extra work isn’t really a burden for someone already doing the same thing. Even if the work is split among several people, each should ask for a raise, and they’ll likely all get it. “Don’t underestimate the cost of a single position to your employer. It isn’t just the paycheck, but the insurance benefits, benefits…everything. You can get a substantial pay bump this way,” she revealed.
- Aggressively seek promotions. The HR chief says most employers love it when employees seek promotions. That shows ambition, she said. “If you want more money, climb that ladder. Promotions are an obvious tool for increasing income.” She recommends studying company ads for open and available positions, but also studying the organizational chart, saying that “Sometimes you can get pay bumps just by having your title reclassified as something similar that pays more. No one is offended by a reclassification request.”
- Use your connections. She says employees who’ve done something good for someone of the chain of command, or taken on high profile projects, should reach out to higher-level officials about a pay increase. Even gentle pressure from above can lead your boss to advocate more pay for you. This is why volunteering for those tough projects no one wants makes sense.