December 21, 2020

Talking Pay


Compensation-related articles and tips often focus on teaching managers how to have conversations with their employees about pay and compensation.

However, this topic isn’t just a one-way street.

It’s just as important for employees to know how to discuss the same topic with their managers, but this side of the equation is often forgotten. Apex Compensation Consultant Katherine Bryant discussed this very topic with HR Consultant Brooke Salazar on an episode of Casually Caffeinated: HR Conversations Unscripted earlier this year.

But just how do you bring up that conversation with your manager? Discussions about money can be awkward and intimidating — no matter who you are or who you’re reporting to.

Questions about how to start that conversation usually begin with simply learning your organization’s overall compensation policy so you can form a better understanding of current practices.

Fair enough, right?

Yet there’s still the fear of coming off as ‘greedy’ or any other unpleasant adjective. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t be.

Every company has different compensation policies, and some can be more robust than others.

Whatever your case may be, there are ways to bring up these ‘tough’ conversations with your manager.

Know The Market Data

Market data is good, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

You might have access to salary survey data about your position, but beware: a lot of ‘free’ compensation market data found online is crowdsourced and isn’t always 100 percent accurate. Keep this in mind and try not to use the data as a source.

However, market data is still a good piece of the “compensation pie.” There is a lot that goes into figuring out someone’s compensation beyond market data.

Listed below are some potential factors that help determine employee compensation.

  • Internal pay practices: Every organization has their own “philosophy” – or why they pay the way they do – even if it isn’t explicitly stated
  • Incumbent experience
  • Supply and demand: For example, is your position hard to fill/is there a lack of talent available in the open candidate pool?
  • Tenure
  • Overall responsibilities
  • Performance
  • Retention risk
  • Special certifications

Create a Game Plan

You have your ducks in a row with the above information, but where do you go from there?

When negotiating a salary increase, prioritize the following:

  • Stick to the facts. Market data can be interpreted in a variety of ways, so it’s best to prepare for a conversation about your personal contributions to business objectives
  • Highlight ways that your role has evolved since your last increase. For example:
    • Did you gain direct reports since your last increase?
    • How has your department/business area changed?
    • What major responsibilities have you taken on since your last increase?
    • Any certifications earned since your last increase?
    • Highlight high performance reviews if available.
  • Detail significant achievements since your last increase, especially those that were operational-driven. For example:
    • Any new system implementations/roll-outs?
    • Any new company-wide initiatives that you were the key lead?
  • Focus on your most recent performance. If you are a high performer, you’ll have a better chance of receiving an increase.
  • Be sure your job description is 100 percent up-to-date.

Of course, even if you focus on those key points, pay increases are still tied back to the organization’s overall financial health and their overall approach to providing increases.

Even if the conversation doesn’t lead to an increase, hopefully it gives clear objectives for what you need to achieve before your next increase – leading to an easy facilitation of your next compensation conversation.

Compensation can be an awkward subject to bring up to managers  —and this topic can be equally awkward for managers to bring up to their employees— but it doesn’t have to be – as long as there’s transparency and you’ve done your homework!