How to get a pay rise in 2012
Asking for a pay rise sounds counter-intuitive in an 'austere' year characterised by budget cuts and salary freezes.
Even large accountancy firms which have weathered the recession relatively well will keep a tight lid on the pay pot.
But many accountants in firms as well as in business have taken on extra responsibilities un-recompensed over the last few years: covering the work of colleagues who may have been made redundant; stepping-up to the role of manager without the pay increase because of promotion freeze; or handling increased work levels because of a block on recruitment.
These individuals will want to receive their just rewards in the future, but there’s always a danger that employers will get used to the new status quo. When once an accountant would find a better job if pay and promotion requests were consistently turned-down, the current flat employment market has limited that option.
So, what should accountants do to ensure that their efforts are rewarded and not over-looked in 2012?
Demonstrate your value
Just being there, doing your job, meeting existing targets and clocking-up the years won’t encourage your employer to pay you any more. After all, that’s what you are already being paid to do. Accountants that want a salary increase must justify their request and effectively communicate that justification.
Accountants need to demonstrate the value they bring to their organisation in objective terms, such as new business leads, new deals, cost savings or process improvements. They should identify the difference they have made and quantify it in terms the employer recognises and appreciates.
Put yourself in your employer’s shoes: What would convince you to give a pay rise? What would your boss value and what would impress him or her? What is special about you: Do you have particular technical skills; leadership and team skills; or business development skills?
Build your profile
The higher and more visible your profile and the more widely-known you are, the greater the loss to the organisation and the more clout you will have in negotiations. They say that clever people know lots of things, but successful people know lots of people. Individuals that plan to ask for a pay rise should build their visibility inside and outside the organisation and increase their professional networks.
Employees should play a long-game to build their visibility and demonstrate their worth, i.e. make their personal business case, over time. This isn’t something you can decide on Monday and do on Friday.
When the time comes to make your pay request, make sure you have a list of concise and relevant examples that illustrate what you have achieved, the difference it has made and the value it has brought to the organisation.
Your request must be communicated with confidence and you must feel genuinely comfortable when making your pitch. The authority of your claim will be undermined if you are anxious and uncertain. Your body language will betray you. Maintain eye contact and don’t be afraid of a long pause. A clear sign of discomfort is a person’s inability to hold a silence. Make your point and then stop. Don’t be tempted to keep talking, even if your employer doesn’t respond or takes a long time to ponder your demand.
Threats should be avoided. People hate to be blackmailed and unless you are absolutely indispensible to the organisation, it may backfire. If you have actually been approached by another employer, then putting your cards on the table may help your boss’s perception of your value.
Before initiating a discussion, employees should establish their best alternative position: If your request for a salary increase is turned-down, what will you do then? If the answer is nothing, then your negotiating position is weak.
But as the employment market improves and the business environment becomes healthier, employees may find the new skills, experiences and responsibilities taken-on during the recession make them increasingly marketable. Those marketable abilities will make them attractive hires for other organisations and significantly strengthen their negotiating hand.