On a scale of uncomfortable moments, asking for a raise or bonus ranks somewhere between public speaking and attending the office Christmas party. And there’s evidence that this task has only gotten more difficult. For the past five years, a majority of American employers have failed to fund their bonus pools fully, according to benefits consulting firm Towers Watson. The end result is that fewer American workers are getting the salaries they believe they deserve.
So, to get that end-of-the-year raise or bonus, you need to do more than show up to your job evaluation. If you hope to boost your salary, you need to devise some ways to impress management by year’s end.
Fortunately, there’s still time to score that raise. Find out what top managers, CEOs and career experts advise you to do to maximize your chances of snagging a pay increase.
1. Do Your Research
When the end of the year comes around, many people do little more than compile a list of reasons they believe they deserve raises. However, there are two more key elements of a successful job evaluation, according to Deb Shaw, COO of ForeignExchange.com.
First, candidates should research salary ranges for their positions on sites like Glassdoor.com or PayScale.com. “This will help you better understand your market value and how much of a raise you can realistically ask for,” said Shaw.
Second, employees seeking raises should research whether their work has resulted in additional business or income for the company that might not be so directly related to them.
“Maybe the results you delivered for one client led to referrals and two new client accounts,” Shaw said.
2. Practice Your Pitch
You know what they say about practice — it makes perfect. It can also make you more money at job evaluation time, said Martha Schmitz, a senior advisor with career help site TheMentat.com. While you don’t have to spend hours in front of the mirror practicing your smile, you will need to perfect the process of asking for a raise through repetition.
“Employees should go over their pitch with trusted friends or even with a career advisor, making sure they can confidently and concisely state their worth as an employee,” said Schmitz.
Holding a mock job evaluation also helps ensure you remember all the salient points on the day of your review.
Shaw notes that employees should have friends or colleagues offer challenges to their requests that supervisors are likely to make. Doing this allows workers to craft effective counteroffers in preparation for the big day.
3. Put Yourself in Your Employer’s Position
When asking for a raise, it’s important to remember that your supervisor likely has to justify the extra expenditure to his or her boss. On the other hand, if your supervisor owns the company, giving you a raise takes away from the business’ bottom line. So, you’ll be best served by seeing the job evaluation process from his or her position, said Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal.
Clayton recommends mentioning your raise request well ahead of December. Doing this gives your boss time to point out improvements you can make in your performance before the end of the year. Clayton went on to mention a worker who used this approach with him.
The employee approached Clayton several months before the end of the year, saying, “I understand you can’t hand out raises just because someone has been here X number of years. I believe that raises and any promotions should be awarded in the same fashion that martial artists earn belts. And I understand that I am a brown belt right now, but I want to be a black belt. Let’s brainstorm on five actionable things I can do between now and the end of the year to get to black belt status, and then we will revisit before Christmas and review my progress and my raise. Sound good?”
This approach worked on Clayton when he was a manager, and he believes it is likely to be effective with other supervisors and owners as well.
4. Be Positive
Nobody likes a downer. And every boss hates to give a downer a raise, said Timothy Wiedman, a retired associate professor of management and human resources at Doane University. According to Wiedman, being a dependable employee whose work is always of the highest quality is just the first step.
“Whenever company budgets tighten, candidates for merit-based bonuses need more than the mere ability to get the job done. They also need to generate enthusiasm and confidence among their supervisors, colleagues and subordinates,” he said.
While completing work on time is crucial, employees also need to make sure they demonstrate positive attitudes. Grumbling about every challenge or obstacle will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. Still, employees who have demonstrated poor behavior in the past need not lose hope.
“Developing a positive, optimistic, can-do attitude can be accomplished in a few short months, and is sure to be noticed and valued within the organization,” said Wiedman.
Perhaps whistling while you work isn’t so crazy after all.
5. Factor in Your Intangibles
Being able to point to sales or other tangible profits that you brought to your company is great. But don’t forget that more than paperwork and signatures go into a healthy bottom line. If you contribute in ways that go beyond your normal responsibilities, bring those up in your review, according to digital marketing consultant Igor Kholkin.
“Are you the company’s biggest advocate outside of the office? Do you consistently provide emotional support to stressed colleagues? Are you the office comic relief that coworkers love to chat with to de-stress during crunch time? All of those are highly valuable contributions,” said Kholkin.
For best results, spend the time leading up to your evaluation composing a list of achievements. Then offer supervisors a gentle reminder of your accomplishments during your review.
These intangibles could be the difference between getting a raise and getting turned down.
6. Use Your Last Review as a Basis
Managers appreciate employees who take the initiative to grow and improve on their own, said Kholkin. Before your job evaluation, consider taking the time to complete a certificate course or do some additional training. You could even use paid online learning platforms such as Lynda.com, he said.
Kholkin suggests using your previous review as a basis to show how much you’ve grown since then. The goal is to demonstrate to your manager how valuable you are to the company now.
“The bonus of doing this is that your resume also grows stronger, making you more attractive to other employers in the future,” said Kholkin.
7. Be Flexible With Compensation
When it comes to getting a bonus or raise, it’s only natural to think in monetary terms. However, Shaw advises employees to have more open minds about compensation. Sometimes, it’s just not possible for a company to offer you more pay, but it can offer other perks.
“Even though your employer might not agree to the full pay raise you are asking for, there is still room to negotiate other benefits in areas such as stock options, free gym membership, insurance and extra vacation days,” Shaw said.
Additionally, Schmitz recommends requesting that employers pay for certificate or degree programs to help you grow as a professional. These perks can often be more valuable than the raise you would have gotten. So, research available and desired perks at your company before embarking on the job evaluation process.