But even if management is willing to pay more to retain top performers, the best way to ask for a raise will change depending on your circumstances and position. Your company might want to reward your performance, but you could still make mistakes that will doom your chances. Here’s how to avoid those landmines and rake in the money you deserve.
Take an Outsider’s Perspective
To determine the value that you bring to the organization, as well as the attributes and achievements you should highlight in making your request, consider what your manager would be willing to pay extra for in today’s competitive talent market.
After all, many companies try to poach external candidates just to keep current employees “on their toes.” Taking an outsider’s perspective may also help you recognize your competitive advantages such as institutional knowledge.
For example, some technical skills are worth more than others because they match the current needs and business objectives of the company, explained Mike Duensing, CTO and EVP of Engineering for Skuid, a no-code cloud application platform. Focus on the skills that matter most today.
“Likeability matters, too,” Duensing noted. From a manager’s perspective, it’s worth paying more to keep someone who gets along with their teammates and supports the company’s values and mission.
Show Me the Facts
Leave no doubt about the value of your work, advised Deborah Gelch, CIO for Curry College. “Organizations are concerned about top- and bottom-line growth,” she explained. “In order to sell a larger salary increase to the CFO, I need to provide specific examples and data illustrating how the employee’s contributions saved resources, created efficiencies or generated additional revenue.”
Keep in mind that managers expect professionals to work hard. To score more than a cost-of-living adjustment, you’ll need to show that your work had a significant, positive effect on profits and growth. In light of that, do your research, and bring hard numbers and documentation to the table.
The reality is that just saying an initiative or project is strategic does not make it so, Gelch added. Tie the problems you’ve solved to the organization’s business objectives before classifying them as “strategic.”
Don’t come off as cocky or demanding, and definitely don’t threaten to quit. If you’re receiving interest from other companies and feel that you are underpaid, have an open and honest discussion about it with your manager. Explain why you are feeling dissatisfied and try to resolve the issues that are causing you to look elsewhere before issuing a pay-related ultimatum.
When you take the time to talk through your concerns, you’ll find that most bosses will be receptive.
Honestly Evaluate Your Performance
You stand a much better shot of getting a raise if you exceed performance expectations and outperform your peers. That being said, you can’t think you’re doing better than the internal competition—the numbers must back you up. In fact, overestimating your own abilities and contributions can backfire and lead to embarrassment and disappointment.
If you don’t know what your boss thinks about your performance, have that discussion first. If the feedback is positive, then feel free to bring up the topic of money. If you have some things you need to work on, take the opportunity to ask what you need to do to earn a raise. Commit to a plan.
For most tech pros, simply knowing exactly what they need to do to improve is enough to work their way out of a slump, Duensing said: “I’ve seen people turn around in pretty big ways within six months.”