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Building your business case for a pay raise

Posted by Jim Fearon, Vice President, Hays Canada on Tuesday, Feb 14, 2017

Hays Canada Blog: Building your business case for a pay raiseAsking for a raise in your salary can often times bring quite a bit of stress, but your boss can’t fire you for asking for a pay rise. It’s simply a case of, if you don’t ask then you won’t get. 

The coming year is an especially advantageous time to bring forward your salary raise request since employers are more willing to listen. According to the Hays 2017 Salary Guide, 40 per cent of construction employers are planning to hire over the next year and a third are willing to raise base salaries for the right employee.

But just because employers are willing to make a salary change doesn’t mean they will automatically say yes.

Making sure you’ve prepared properly for your meeting is crucial to your success. This includes choosing an appropriate time and having done your research but most importantly developing a clear and coherent business case. Your boss will be able to make an informed and sensible decision if you clearly demonstrate, with tangible evidence, how much of an asset you are to the business.

Here are some things you need to make sure you cover:

Do your research

It’s important to know the going rate for your role; otherwise you’ll be in the dark about how much is a logical request. One way you can research this is with the Hays 2017 Salary Guide, where there are a variety of salaries listed for different construction roles. If you discover the industry average wage for your role is higher than your current wage then you have every right to bring this information into the pay rise meeting with you.

Similarly, if you have been headhunted for a role that promises an increased salary then I would advise mentioning this to your boss. They will appreciate your honesty and the fact that, despite being offered an increased wage in a new role, you have demonstrated loyalty by offering your employer a chance to retain your services.

Before deciding that you deserve a raise consider how much your benefits (pension plan, life insurance, etc.) are worth on top of your salary. Your salary may be the industry average, but your other benefits might make up for this considerably.

Familiarize yourself with whether or not your employer has a common procedure for salary increases so that you aren’t caught off guard. If you can’t find this information on your company’s internal systems, then make a general inquiry to the HR department. The HR department may also be able to tell you when your manager’s budget is finalized; scheduling your meeting just after budgets have been confirmed puts you and your boss in a very tricky position.

Presenting your case

When preparing your business case for your manager, consider that HR will probably have to grant their approval too. As such, make sure it’s constructed with both your boss and the HR team in mind.

Detail an agenda for the meeting and take control. Not only will preparing an actual sheet of paper with the agenda on it help you to keep your boss from altering the trajectory but it will also be useful in helping your boss go away and consider the matter. Hard facts and figures visible on a piece of paper cannot be disputed; and they’ll help your boss articulate your case to HR.

How well you present your case is just as important as the content you include. Agree upon a time slot with your boss at least one week in advance of your meeting. Catching them off-guard with demands for a salary increase is unlikely to help in your success. Book a quiet and private room during a free afternoon where you and your boss can discuss the issue thoroughly without distraction.

Prove that you’re worth it

You can’t just want a raise, you need to deserve it. Sixty-nine percent of construction employers say tenure and performance are the reason why they would consider increasing salaries. Your fundamental objective is to prove you’re an asset to the business, so structure your case around this idea.

Write down all the things that you’ve achieved individually or contributed to significantly as part of a team. Build your whole case around two or three of these projects. Back up your claims with real and irrefutable evidence e.g. money earned as a result of your success, relationships with clients improved, processes improved and savings made. If your answer is yes to the questions below then you have a strong case.

  • Are you going above and beyond the stated responsibilities in your contract?
  • Do you offer greater value than your colleagues who are being paid the same or more handsomely than you are?
  • Have you taken on extra responsibilities recently?
  • Have you improved since the last performance review with your manager?
  • Have you added tangible, demonstrable value to the business?
  • Usually a pay rise will mean a promotion, so make sure you’re ready for this eventuality

If your manager is going to keep investing in you going forward then you need to prove that you offer growth and success. Your boss is making an investment decision, so always gauge your argument in money terms.

Be ready for the tough questions

Asking for a pay rise can be an awkward situation for your manager, and as a result they might ask some challenging questions. Make sure you’re prepared for them in advance by preparing an answer for each of the following:

  • How much of a raise do you require?
  • Will you leave if your boss can’t meet your expectations?
  • Do you think, considering the economy, it’s an appropriate time to be asking?
  • Are you truly deserving of such a raise?

Being fully prepared for tough questions such as these will help you retain control of the meeting whilst making your clear and cohesive case.

Wrap it up

Don’t put your boss under too much pressure at any time in the meeting – you want to avoid a confrontation. If your case is logical and well-reasoned then allow them the time to digest it fully rather than asking them to make a snap-judgement. Agree a date and time to meet again and come to a final decision.

You need to be prepared for all eventualities, as there’s no guarantee that your proposal will go well. If you’re not successful you need to decide on whether you plan to stay on or not.

I hope you have found the above advice useful. If you’d like to complement this blog with insights on career progression, get your free copy of the DNA of a VP of Construction.

Not in construction? Find the DNA report for your area.

Talk to Jim Fearon, Vice President, Hays Canada, on the Canadian construction labour market.

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