From the Sunday Times:

STAR PERFORMERS CAN STILL CLINCH A PAY RISE

If you don’t ask you won’t receive, but research and rehearse before going to the boss, writes Gabrielle Monaghan.


A gratuitous close-up of Cheryl Cole’s pay rise – 34.1% Phwoar!

WITH firms shedding jobs, imposing three-day weeks and salary cuts, seeking a pay rise looks like an attempt at career suicide – unless you are Cheryl Cole. Although ITV has little cash to splash, producers are reported to have offered to boost the Girls Aloud star’s salary from £820,000 to £1,100,000 [Cheryl is a judge on the UK’s version of American IdolThe X Factor]. Non-celebrities, however, will be well aware that the European Commission has predicted that unemployment will hit 16% in Ireland next year and, according to IBEC, the employers’ lobby group, more than half of bosses are considering cutting their permanent workforce by the end of the year.

“Pay rises would be pretty few and far between in the current environment,” said Brendan McGinty, IBEC Director in charge of industrial relations and HR services.

… Employees’ expectations are even lower. Last month, a survey by Monster.ie, the online recruiter, revealed that three-quarters of Irish workers do not expect a pay increase this year, with 59% having already been told so by their employers.

… Rowan Manahan, the MD of Fortify Services, a career management firm, says the majority of Irish people are still employed and will remain so through this crisis, and that exceptional performers can still command a pay rise. “Most bosses are now playing the Béal Bocht [an Irish expression meaning ‘the poor mouth’] and one line being repeated around town is, ‘Never let a good recession go to waste,’ he said. “Bosses are delighted to be able to maintain and control costs because people’s expectations have been so diminished.”

“Don’t even consider having a pay-rise discussion with your boss unless you are a serious player [and that means in your boss’ eyes – not yours], in the top 5% of performers, and you are either saving the company, or making it so much money it basically can’t afford to ignore you. The single most important thing you need in your career right now is self-awareness. You have to know where you stand on the bell curve, against the market’s performance or against individuals in your team.”

As always, employees should use exceptional performance to justify a pay rise and not focus on the fact that their income has taken a hit from the recession. “Saying you need a pay rise because your second child is starting private education is of zero interest to your boss,” said Manahan. “Instead, demonstrate that you are producing and that there is an implicit risk they may lose you because you could get a better income elsewhere.”

Manahan recommends finding out how much your contribution is worth to your employer compared with how much it’s worth to the market as a whole. Salary surveys published on the leading job sites or by your trade body will provide you with the necessary evidence to support your case. Once you have completed your research and objectively deemed yourself to be worthy of a pay rise, start drip-feeding details about your contribution, however large or small, over a period of time. Don’t assume that your manager tracks your successes – let them know how you went above and beyond your job description for a project or exactly how much you added to the bottom line.

Before even considering asking for a meeting to discuss pay, make sure the timing is right. Budgets for salaries for next year are typically agreed by senior management months in advance, so asking for any sort of a raise say a month after they have been set is usually pointless. “You need to start campaigning early and say to your boss what your expectations are,” said Manahan. “At the end of a financial year, or after an end-of-year review, you have to start campaigning again.”

With your research under your belt and if your are confident the timing is right, create a pitch for your manager. Practise highlighting achievements in a role-play with a close colleague or friend. When you make the actual pitch, pick a time when your manager will be relaxed and will have the time to engage with you. Tailor the conversation to your boss’ personality. If he or she is a numbers person, provide a report with statistics that delineate your contribution. If your boss prefers things presented visually, unveil a compelling chart that illustrates how your achievements saved or made money for the company.

Threatening to leave, especially in an employment market where job offers are rare, is a dangerous ploy. [Not least because an ultimatum of ‘Give me a raise or I’m outa here’ can be twisted by a Machiavellian boss to being you handing in your notice. Careful!] Instead speak about the consequences of not being rewarded appropriately for your work, such as: “If I don’t get x%, I’m going to find it very hard to justify spending the long hours needed on this project.”

If the answer is still “No,” you can either grit your teeth and get on with the job or step up your networking efforts to find out if there are other opportunities within your industry. “It’s your career and, if these people are not willing to engage, ask yourself if you need to talk to a headhunter or go to a career management service to see how to improve your prospects,” said Manahan. “If your current organisation won’t engage with you, it behoves you to quietly put a feeler out into the sector. It’s always worth doing and you don’t even have to act on it.”