Getting a pay rise in HR

by External12 Oct 2011

The trouble with pay rises is that it's an emotional issue and it's not easy for us to always know how to navigate the process in an unemotional and objective way. When we seek a pay rise in our current organisation, it's actually quite a complex process. There are a number of variables at play.

We have history with our employer - they know us, we know them and they definitely need us to navigate this carefully; it requires us to plan well. This is even more difficult when we are a HR professional. We're often trying to deal with this as a senior colleague within a system where our function is custodian of the pay process and ensuring its equitability, consistency and so on. Negotiating a pay rise from that position - where you are part of that responsible function - is possibly harder than for anyone else in the organisation.

HR notoriously doesn't look after itself very well. Not many people realise this but HR does tend to look after itself last. It's like the family holding back at a big party - you have the last of the food and if there isn't an awful lot there, you end up having the crumbs that are left!

When pay rises are being determined it's a very busy time for the HR department. Appraisals need to have been done in the line and quite often managers need to be conjoined to them. Pay reviews themselves take time because often employers are reviewing salary as well as bonuses and these aren't always short discussions. In order for pay reviews to be well done, in a fair and reasonable way, it requires time. So how does an HR executive bring up their own pay issue? How do you build your business case? How do you orientate to the boss and the system appropriately?

You have to pick your time. Picking your time is important and you usually raise it with your boss first. A good way of doing it is to ask them how they can help you. An advantage to being in HR is you already know how the pay rise process works. You also know enough to know who to talk to, who to confide in. But be careful who you talk to - just as there's an advantage to be on 'the inside' of the process, there's also a challenge there in terms of it not being easy to confide in someone internally because of who you are.

Instead of confiding internally, look for external mentors - people who know you and know your value.

Use a career guide if you have access to one; the best people will give you external and objective feedback and insight once they've taken the time to get to know you.

By being a passive party and not offering your own input into the decision and process, you'll find yourself accepting a compromise you may well be disappointed with.

Here are our five top tips for getting that pay rise:

  1. Plan to ask for the pay rise around the time of an annual pay review. It's at this point that your line manager will be most willing to act as your advocate and sponsor in salary negotiations.
  2. Schedule the meeting where you ask for the pay rise after lunch. After eating, blood sugars are higher and it's therefore the best time of day to bring up sensitive or challenging subjects.
  3. To get an idea of how much you should be asking for, speak to people doing similar roles to you in the same sector or in similar organisations. Try to talk to people you know really well so you can comfortably ask them how much they're currently getting paid and how much they're planning to ask for at their next pay review.
  4. Practice asking for the rise in the mirror. Listen to whether what you say flows or not. Look at your body language and work on making it as positive as possible, ie looking yourself in the eye in the mirror and sitting up straight.
  5. Given the current economic climate, you might be reluctant to ask for an outright pay rise. If so, ask for increase in reward in some other way. For instance, you could ask to work less hours or have more time off whilst keeping your salary the same.

Four essential steps for salary negotiation success

  1. Confidence
  2. Powerful active language
  3. Research
  4. Practice, practice, practice

Key facts to remember

  • Surveys suggest that 85-90% of hiring managers do not make their best offer first
  • Counteroffers are generally 10-15% above the original offer

About the author
Simon North is co-founder of Position Ignition which focuses on HR strategy, late-career management for organisations and career consultancy for individuals. Visit www.positionignitionorg.com for help engaging your most talented workers

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