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Professional New Year's Resolution: Asking for a Raise

Do you need a New Year's resolution you can actually follow through with? Ask for a raise! Learn how to navigate asking for a raise at your company.

The letter "J" for Justworks.
Justworks
Dec 28, 202011 minutes
Professional New Year's Resolution: Asking for a Raise

After a long year of hard work at your company, business is slowing down, virtual office parties are in full swing, and everyone is in the holiday spirit.

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But the New Year is right around the corner, and who doesn’t want to start 2021 off with a bang professionally? You can get a head start by making an early New Year’s resolution — resolve to ask for that raise you deserve in 2021. How do you navigate asking for a raise, especially in the current landscape? We’ve got some tips that can help.

For Employees

Plan It Right  

Asking for a raise successfully has a lot to do with timing and is usually a combination of two things: your track record and your company’s ability to reward you monetarily. It’s important to understand that the big picture matters as much as your personal timeline, and you’ll be more successful if you demonstrate that you are considering both sides of the issue. You don’t want to ask for a raise prematurely, so do your research. Does your company have a policy or a general practice for raises? Chances are, if you’re working at a newer company, there’s no hard and fast rule. Try talking to your coworkers to see how others took action on managing their career raises. Just remember that what worked for your colleague doesn’t necessarily apply to your situation. Keep their feedback as a data point, not as a justification for why you are also deserving.

The best way to find out this information is to have an ongoing dialogue with your manager about your career goals. Starting the conversation early and having it focused on growth rather than money could benefit you, as your manager will have an idea of what you’re working toward and how they can support you in getting there.

You don’t want to ask for a raise prematurely, so do your research. Does your company have a policy or a general practice for raises?

Also, don’t forget to consider the company itself when thinking about timing. How is your company doing right now? Is it really struggling? Were a bunch of people just laid off? If so, it might not be the best time to ask for a raise. On the other hand, if your company is chugging along and doing great, that’s a much better climate for asking for your raise. Keep in mind that there are many ‘buckets’ of money that businesses use to grow. While it may seem like the recent marketing spend would be better directed toward employee raises, that might not be in the best interest of the company long term.

Make Note of Your Accomplishments

When asking for a raise, it’s crucial to show your manager how you’ve met, and exceeded, expectations for your role. To prepare for this, reflect on your accomplishments (it’s also a great idea to keep an ongoing list throughout the year).

Consider your performance goals, as well as the company’s high-level goals, and think about everything you’ve tackled that aligns with those goals. Highlight quantifiable achievements where possible (think: numbers), but also focus on soft skills and goals that aren’t tied to numeric metrics. Can you identify ways in which you went above and beyond? Have you taken on any new responsibilities, ones that weren’t in your job description? These are the things you’ll want to call attention to to help show your manager that you not only want the raise, but that you deserve it as well.

What if you don’t have concrete goals or even a formal job description? In that case, focus on telling your story. What problems did you address and what results have been achieved as a direct result of your work? A good model to help formulate concise stories about your accomplishments is the STAR model.

Know How Much To Ask For

When considering how much of a raise to ask for, do some research. Look at the pay grades within your organization (if available) and within the larger industry your company is part of. This type of benchmarking data can help further support your request for an increase in compensation, even if your manager isn’t able to grant your request right away. Remember that public websites are only one data point to include. Compensation is impacted by the scope and complexity of your role, as well as the market and industry you are in and the experience you bring to the table. Pro tip: don’t show up to the conversation with a screenshot of your salary according to salary.com and expect it to go well.

When figuring out how much to ask for, remember not to inflate your sum too much. Most raises, unless there is a significant role change, are in the range of 3-5%. Depending on what kind of company you work for, asking for too much could position you to be seen as an employee who is out of touch. On the other hand, asking for slightly more than what you were hoping for can be a good negotiating technique. Just be sure to know your company and understand if this would be an appropriate route to take.

When figuring out how much to ask for, remember not to inflate your sum too much.

Another technique is to focus solely on what you've done to deserve a raise and wait for your manager to suggest a number (if they agree to the raise, of course). You never know what your manager might say. They could give you more than what you asked for, but they also could give you less. Nonetheless, this can be a safer route to take if you don’t know how much is appropriate to ask for.

Consider Asking for Perks and Benefits

While many people think strictly of a salary increase when it comes to raises, you don’t have to limit yourself in terms of what you’d like to receive from your employer. Whether you think a salary increase might not be possible, or you’re interested in other perks, consider the other things your company could offer outside of (or in addition to) a salary increase:

  • An annual or performance-based bonus

  • Additional health and wellness benefits

  • Equity compensation

  • Professional development opportunities

  • Extra paid time off or a flexible work schedule

In addition to other benefits and perks, you can also consider asking for more responsibilities. These might include managing your own team, developing a new process, or transitioning to another role. Even if the things you want are longer-term goals, it’s good to surface those to your manager early on. This allows them insight into what you’re working toward and gives them a chance to help you reach those goals successfully (and also shows your commitment).

Prepare for Questions and Feedback

Your manager will likely ask questions about the new salary you’re requesting or your accomplishments, so have responses ready for either. In addition, you should prepare some questions of your own. Whether you’re looking for clarity around what’s expected of you, or you’d like to dig into what you can do to reach your next set of goals, have some questions ready to ask your manager. You can also inquire about the latest high-level goals for the company, or your department or team. This can help you better align your personal career goals with the goals of your coworkers and company, and is another way to show your commitment to the company.

Feedback is another thing to prepare for. Any discussion related to compensation will likely include feedback about how you’ve performed in your role (and if it doesn’t, ask for it!). Feedback isn’t always easy to hear, especially if it’s a less-than-perfect review. That said, feedback is valuable — regardless of whether it’s positive or negative — so it’s important to learn how to receive it and use it to improve. Plus, if you’re able to take (or ask for) constructive feedback from your manager in a productive way, that may prove you’re serious about being successful — which could make them more likely to grant your request for a raise.

Practice Your Conversation

Once you have figured out what you’re going to say in your pitch, practice it out loud. It may feel a little funny, yes, but practicing out loud will help make you less nervous for the real conversation. You could start off the conversation a little something like this:

“I’m hoping we can talk about my salary. It’s been a year since my last raise, and I’ve taken on a number of new responsibilities since then… I think things are going really well, and I’d like to talk about increasing my salary to reflect this new work.”

When talking about your accomplishments, show not just that you are critical to your company, but that you’ll be even more useful in the future. Especially in smaller companies, it’s always valuable if you can help out wherever needed, so express an interest in other departments or projects that you could lend your skills to.

Be persuasive and convincing, but not demanding, and anticipate what your manager’s response might be. If your manager says that you’re not quite ready, it is a chance to ask about the future with direct questions like “what will it take for me to earn a pay raise?” Asking directly shows that you are reasonable, yet determined to reach your goals. Your manager might just give you valuable information that will help get you that raise later on.

For Employers

Be Prepared to Discuss Raises With Your Team

Regardless of when compensation and performance reviews are scheduled for discussion at your company, your employees may approach you to ask for a raise at any point during the year. It’s important that you’re prepared for and understand the process — the times during which raises can be negotiated, what your team or department budgets can accommodate, and how well your team has performed. The ability to be transparent with your team can make all the difference in how your response is received.

If you’re unable to grant them the raise they’re requesting, be clear as to why. If it has something to do with their performance, be prepared to explain that with constructive feedback. If it has nothing to do with their performance, let them know (at least at a high level) what’s impacting your ability to reward them for their hard work.

Make sure to be clear about what your employees can do to improve their performance enough to be considered for an increase.

If you’re able to consider increasing their compensation, make sure you understand what the process looks like so you can clearly set expectations with your employees around what the process will be like. It will help if you’ve reviewed the performance of your team members before a raise is requested, but make sure you complete a review for whoever you’re considering for a raise.

Helping your team understand the process and the circumstances around your response is beneficial for everyone. Generally, it helps you and your team be better prepared for conversations of this nature. For employees whose requests are denied, understanding that budgetary issues or timing are at play can help avoid any discouragement from asking for a raise in the first place. And, again, if the denial is performance-related, make sure to be clear about what your employees can do to improve their performance enough to be considered for an increase.

Ask For Your Own Raise

It goes without saying that managers deserve raises just as much as their employees do. And while a manager’s work may look different than the work of the teams they manage, the same considerations should be taken when asking for an increase in salary.

If you haven’t solicited feedback from your employees, do this as part of your preparation. It will give you insight into how you can improve while also providing clear examples of what you’ve done well. Take the positive feedback and use that to support your request for a raise.

As you note your accomplishments, make sure to account for the fact that managing teams might have looked very different this year. With many companies going fully remote, managers had the unique task of leading teams from afar. While some managers had experience managing remote teams, many others approached this with limited knowledge. This was no easy feat, so if you managed to succeed in this area, include that in your accomplishments. Don’t forget to note any significant wins in this area as well — developing a new process that better serves remote teams, enabling teams to better collaborate, or providing support above and beyond what’s expected of you.

Go For It!

Now — take a deep breath, and ask for that raise! Whether you ask at the start of 2021 or a few months down the line, deciding to ask for the raise you deserve might just be the New Year’s resolution that helps you move forward professionally.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.