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How Often Should You Get a Salary Increase?

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There’s one particular thought that we’re probably all guilty of having in our professional roles, one time or another.

Am I getting paid enough for what I’m doing?

Salary increases can be a thorny subject at work that intimidate a lot of people into never discussing them. They’re an essential part of a healthy, well-functioning workplace though and asking for an increase is never wrong — after all, the price of things is constantly rising.

How often should you get a salary increase though? What goes into determining whether your qualify for one? And how would you go about applying for one?

We took a deeper dive into the issue.


How are salary increases awarded?

In public sector workplaces, or in places with a recognised trade union or professional association, salary increases will be negotiated collectively and all employees will receive a pay rise, based on pre-determined rates, generally once a year. This is known as a ‘collective bargaining’ agreement.

Salary increases in the private sector are usually awarded on an individual basis, based on individual performance and output, but sometimes they might be delivered collectively, for example, as a salary increase reflecting a general increase in the cost-of-living for employees, or as a reward for excellent group performance. More often that not though, you’ll have to negotiate a salary increase on your own in the private sector.


Why do you qualify for a raise?

So, if salary increases are awarded on an individual basis at your company, what reasons might qualify you for a raise? Generally speaking, there are three reasons you might get that coveted salary increase:

1.      Your workload has increased

Over the past year (or since your last pay review was conducted) your responsibilities have increased, or your workload has significantly increased, and this has meant that you’ve had to work a lot harder, whilst still earning the same amount of money.

2.      Your productivity or quality of work has increased

Since your last pay review, you’ve demonstrated an improvement in productivity or efficiency. You might have created a new way to maximise your output or company profits. Perhaps you’ve taken a professional qualification that’s supercharged your own skills and improved productivity for your employer? Either way, you’ve demonstrated an improvement in the value that you offer your company as an employee.

3.      You’ve been with the company for a while

You’ve demonstrated loyalty and commitment by staying with the company for a particular time period. It could be your probation period, or it could be longer, like a year or two.

These three factors aren’t the only reasons that you’d get a salary increase, but they’re some of the most common that determine whether a company might consider raising your pay.

 

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How often should you get a salary increase?

Usually, an organisation will go through a yearly process called an ‘Annual Pay Review’, led by the Human Resources department and by the senior management team at a company. The purpose of this review is to inform the level of rise that would be sustainable for the company, based on business performance, market trends, and wider economic conditions.

An Annual Pay Review is usually informed by data like:

  • Individual/collective performance and productivity
  • Inflation and cost of living
  • Length of service

At the end of the review, the team working on it will determine the level of salary increases that are appropriate for particular roles.

If the salary increase is being delivered collectively, all employees will be told about it at the same time. If it’s being delivered individually, it will probably be tied to your yearly performance review.

Generally, this means that you should be reviewed for a salary increase every year. Unfortunately, there’s no obligation on employers to conduct a process like this, so you might seen pay reviews carried out every other year or so.


How to request a salary increase

So, if you think you qualify, how do you actually go about requesting a salary increase? Luckily, there’s a general process that you can follow to try and get the raise you’re after. It usually takes the form of four steps: researching salary increases for similar roles, planning your argument for a salary increase, arranging a meeting to present your argument, and putting forward your argument for an increase in the meeting itself.

1.      Research salary increases for similar roles

First of all, before you’ve even told your manager about your intention to ask for a salary increase, you need to find out what salary increases people in similar roles at other companies are receiving.

That’s so that you can go into your request meeting or performance review, with a relevant, credible figure in mind.

Figures about the average salaries in your industry, and average pay increases, are widely available on the internet, so do a quick bit of desktop research to find out the going salary increase in your particular sector. If you’re in the UK, the Hays Salary Guide is a great indicator of the current rates of pay for roles in different areas of the country. 

Looking at local job adverts for your role can help tremendously too – some companies will take your ‘comparison’ salaries more seriously if they’re for roles based in your city or region.

2.      Prepare your case

Next, you need to prepare your arguments for a pay rise.

As salary increases are usually dependent on the outcome of your annual performance review, it can help to have a copy of your previous performance review and your current targets in front of you, to refer to.

At its most basic, you need to create an argument that highlights how you’ve provided extra value to your employer that is worthy of being rewarded. Essentially, you have to convince your employer that your skills, experience and knowledge are actively contributing to increased productivity in the organisation. To put that simply, you have to show how you’re adding value to an organisation. You can do that by providing evidence about how you’ve hit or exceeded your targets, along with achievements that you’ve won this year to further back up your points.

3.      Submit your request and arrange a meeting to present your argument

With your arguments prepared, you’ll need to let your manager know that you’re formally requesting a salary increase.

You normally do this by submitting a letter or email to your line manager, laying out your request for a specific meeting to request a salary review.

Now, at this point, you might have to make a strategy decision. You could do one of two things:

  • Include your complete argument in the letter itself— a good course of action if you want your manager to come to a decision on your salary increase before your meeting.
  • Leave the complete argument out of the letter, saving it for the meeting itself — a good option if you want to maintain the element of surprise and rely on your persuasion skills in the meeting itself. (If you take this approach, it’s a good idea to follow the meeting up with an email summarising your argument for your manager’s reference.)

Depending on the specific policies of your organisation, you could be told that salary increases are decided at your annual performance review, so a specific meeting might not be required. That works in your favour because it means you won’t have to go to the effort of arranging another meeting and generally, you stand a better chance of getting one.  You will have to pay close attention during the meeting itself and make sure that a salary increase is on the agenda for what will be discussed during the meeting.

4.      Present your case

Regardless of whether your salary increase will be discussed in your annual performance review, or in a dedicated salary increase meeting, you’ll need to present your case!

Make some detailed notes ahead of the meeting, laying out and summarising all of the key points that you came up with in point 2.

Talk clearly and confidently, maintain good levels of eye contact and turn on your charm!

 

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Next steps

If your manager has told you in advance that a salary review will form part of your annual performance review, you could get a decision then and there. However, in all cases, it’s more likely that your manager will have to go back to senior management to discuss your request before approving it – or coming back with a counteroffer. 


Some basic tips to help you request a salary increase

We’ve spoken about the general process of requesting a salary increase and how you would go about it. Here are some basic tips to help you.

1.      Think strategically

Don’t run into the situation haphazardly, without knowing what you want ahead of time and how you’re going to get it. Use your initiative and create

2.      Don’t be too unrealistic

Make sure that the figure you have in mind for a salary increase isn’t too unrealistic and that it matches the general rate of increase for similar roles in other sectors. You nee dot find a balance between your expections and your reality.

3.      Don’t take failure personally

You might not be successful in asking for a salary rise. Sometimes, economic conditions or internal issues in a company can affect whether or not they’ll be able to offer you a salary increase at that particular time. Don’t get too disheartened — you can always try again in 6 months or a year. The key is to not take failure personally: usually, there are more structural issues that are stopping you getting a salary increase than how manager’s perceive your talent.

That said, if you’ve been working at a company for years, performing well, and you’ve never received a salary rise despite repeatedly asking, that’s probably a good sign that you should consider finding a new employer.

It sounds harsh, but the cost of living is always increasing. This means that every year you don’t get a pay rise, you’re effectively taking a pay cut. If an employer is repeatedly unwilling to offer you a salary increase, despite evidence that you deserve one, that’s putting you at a significant economic disadvantage.

We hope you’ve gained some important knowledge about how often salary increases are awarded, what determines them and how you might go about applying for one. Bear our tips in mind and you should stand a decent chance of success. Good luck!


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