You find yourself contributing more at work, despite having a smaller team and larger workload than you did before the pandemic. Is it ridiculous to think you might deserve a salary increase, even in the unpredictable business environment brought on by COVID-19?
Knowing how to ask for a raise right now can be tricky. After all, requesting more money can be intimidating, even in the best economic climates.
But research by Robert Half shows that now may be as good a time as any. In a recent survey, 88% of senior managers said they’re concerned about retaining valued staff. And 86% of all managers polled said they’re equally or more likely to negotiate salary with new hires as they were a year ago.
Read between the lines, and there appears to be wiggle room — at least in some cases. To help put you on the right track, here are six tips for asking for a raise.
1. Benchmark your salary
Take the time to learn the average starting salaries for your position and similar roles. Consult the Robert Half Salary Guides to determine the going rates for your job, then localize the numbers to your area using our Salary Calculator. If your compensation is below par, you can use this information as leverage for requesting an increase.
While you’re looking at the numbers, carefully consider whether your company is in the position to offer you a bump in pay. Has it landed a deal recently or realized an upswing in revenue? Or has it just undergone budget cuts or layoffs? If the latter, you might build a case for increased benefits, such as additional paid time off, professional development, a new title or an equity stake in the company, instead.
2. Quantify your achievements
You know you’ve been doing a good job, but when you’re figuring out how to ask for a raise, you should start by building your case and documenting the bottom-line benefits you’ve brought to the company.
Let’s say you work in an accounting department. You created those excellent month-end reports — and introduced accounts payable alerts. But what does that mean to your employer? Instead of pointing to your actions by saying, “I used Excel to update our month-end closing procedure,” make clear their precise benefits, such as: “I cut 20 hours from our month-end closing by implementing new features in Excel.” Or think in terms of quantifiable time and cost savings: “I reduced our payroll processing time by 12 hours per week by automating our reports.”
Perhaps you work as an administrative assistant, and you helped your team transition to working from home when stay-at-home orders were issued. The specific added value? “I helped us keep our business functions running smoothly and kept teams in contact virtually to minimize interruptions to productivity and revenue.”
If you’re a UX designer who wants tips for how to ask for a raise, you’d want to share impressive metrics, too. Something like this builds credibility: “I’ve improved our bottom line by designing a user interface that raised our website conversion rate by 110%.”
3. Prepare for a discussion
When was the last time you read over your job description? If it’s been a while, take another look and make sure you’re fulfilling all of your duties. If you’re going above and beyond — especially as your company adapts to ever-changing business conditions due to the pandemic — make note of your most meaningful accomplishments. Enter the meeting ready to talk about the projects you’ve played a role in and how you’ve worked beyond your job description. But be prepared to listen to any feedback you get, too, because many managers will see your active interest as a positive sign, which might translate to a future pay raise if they can’t provide one now.
Something else to prepare: If your boss doesn’t have the authority to grant you a raise and has to get approval from someone higher up, you can help by writing a letter asking for a raise with the key points about why you think you’ve earned it.
4. Practice how to ask for a raise
Role-play with a friend or family member. Practice answering questions about the standard salary figures you’ve researched, the hours and dollars you’ve saved the company, and maybe even how you’ve helped improve productivity. In a pinch, a friend can offer honest feedback on your tone, body language and eye contact. Make sure your conviction shows. If you don’t believe you deserve a raise, why should your boss?
5. Use strong language
No, we don’t mean cursing. We mean confidence. Avoid saying things like, “I feel like,” “I think,” “might,” and “may.” Terms like these make it sound like you’re unsure about your contributions. Tell your boss what you did, not what you think you did — and what positive effects your work has, not what it might have. Just make sure to keep it professional and that your confidence doesn’t come off as arrogance.
6. Have a fallback position
Maybe you took all the right steps before you walked in to ask for a raise, but your boss still turns you down. Don't be afraid to ask what it would take to get a raise in the future. If your manager isn’t ready to consider a raise, ask what specific actions would be needed to merit one, and set a review date. If tight budgets are the issue, ask about a one-time bonus, either now or after a set time period.
Position yourself for a future raise by taking the initiative, discussing your long-term goals with your boss, expanding your skill set and networking with others to raise your visibility in the company. The next time you have a performance review or a big win, you can ask again.
Just remember to be respectful and professional. And stay positive. You may not get what you want. But if you know how to ask for a raise and go in prepared, your request should at least get careful consideration.