Scoring a Raise in a Ratingless System


If your company has recently transitioned to a ratingless performance-management system, getting a substantial raise may require more effort, not to mention a totally new strategy.

Microsoft, Adobe, Juniper and Intel are just some of the companies that have replaced annual reviews, numerical ratings or employee stack rankings with continuous feedback, coaching sessions or frequent conversations between managers and employees.

Without a formal review process and definitive rating, however, even a rock star may have a hard time turning a stellar performance into a bigger paycheck or bonus.

In addition, busy managers may end up spending most of their time coaching underperformers, warned executive career coach Steve Frederick. In his experience, self-sufficient professionals who do a good job may become invisible or even expendable unless they proactively share their achievements with their boss on a regular basis.

No rating? No problem. Here are some tips for getting the raise you deserve.

Know the Rules

Understanding how management will award raises, bonuses and promotions is critical any time your employer installs a new methodology for evaluating performance. But don’t be surprised if your manager can’t explain how performance impacts pay under a ratingless framework, at least at first.

“HR is struggling mightily to provide specifics,” admitted Margaret O’Hanlon, founder and principal of re:Think Consulting. “Give your manager some time to come up with the answers, but don’t make assumptions and don’t let up. Continue to follow up until you understand how raises will work under a ratingless scenario.”

Take Charge

The premise that managers have time for monthly conversations with direct reports seems a bit unrealistic to O’Hanlon. To get what you want under a ratingless structure, you need to take charge and ask for it.

“If you believe that you’re the best at what you do, initiate a conversation with your boss, offer specifics and ask the right questions to keep moving the ball down the line,” she said. “Don’t treat a coaching session like a paternalistic conversation. Bring something to the party like a list of recent projects and accomplishments.”

O’Hanlon recommends having a “Here’s what I want conversation” with your boss to make your objectives clear. And always confirm goals, critiques and commitments via email following every meeting.

“Your ability to create a positive impression is based on the cumulative effect of many interactions with your manager under this type of structure,” advised Dr. Marty Nemko a career coach and author of “The Best of Marty Nemko,” a career advice book. “Make a note every time you get a compliment from a peer or stakeholder, keep them in a file, and look for opportunities to casually inject them into conversations with your manager.”

Ask for a Boost

Although eliminating employee rankings is supposed to deemphasize status and promote equality, every company has some form of hierarchy. Lobbying for a new title as you acquire new skills or take on more responsibility could help you establish supremacy over your peers and quietly score a larger raise or bonus.

“Companies use a separate system to manage pay grades and salaries,” Nemko explained. “Asking for a change in job description or title if you’ve been acting as a de facto project lead, for example, may result in a bigger raise than being rated a four or five under another system.”

Embrace the Ratingless Spirit

The no-ratings movement is gaining momentum because companies fear that competing for raises will foster resentment among tech pros and undermine collaboration and teamwork. If you work for one of those companies, it might be best to avoid comparisons with others to justify a higher salary or bigger share of the raise pool.

Instead, embrace the ratingless spirit by focusing on how your talents and contributions helped your team meet its technical and business goals. “In most companies, employees earn different salaries which is indicative that status exists,” O’Hanlon said. “But in an organization that doesn’t believe in ratings, some things are better left unsaid.”