If you’re like most people—64%, according to Payscale’s "2016 Compensation Best Practices Report"—you feel like you aren’t being paid fairly. Yet, the same study found that 73% of employers feel like their employee compensation is up to snuff.
Why is there such a difference in perception? It may lie in how each is measuring worth, says football analyst and former Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask, author of You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League. Once the highest-ranking woman executive in the National Football League (NFL), Trask is no stranger to negotiating for herself and measuring the worth of those on her team.
"Ultimately, when a business is looking at any employee, it really is a cost-benefit analysis. Is that employee's value to his or her organization equal or greater than his or her cost, or does the organization believe his or her value will ultimately be, over time, equal to or greater than his cost?" she says.
But there are several facets to evaluating cost-benefit, as well as some additional factors that you should consider when calculating your ask. Here are seven questions that can help you understand how much you’re really worth to your company.
We’ve probably all seen people who are hard workers, but the areas in which they work or the projects on which they focus aren’t the same ones prioritized by the company. Trask says you need to have a crystal-clear understanding of what your company’s goals are, as well as what your managers consider important.
For example, let’s say your company’s looking for increased innovation from employees. They want new ideas and solutions that they can bring to market. You might spend time developing productivity solutions to help people get more done and collaboration mechanisms to help them work seamlessly from wherever they are. But if your efforts aren’t focused on generating the results your higher-ups want, then all of that effort isn’t really going to help your case for being paid more, Trask says.
Trask likes to see metrics when someone comes to the negotiating table. For many supervisors to justify a fat raise, they’ve got to be able to show that you’ve earned your keep. So, start looking at metrics. Did you save the company money by implementing some lean approaches? How much? Did that lead-generation campaign produce better than expected? Tell them.
You can also make the case for why your efforts mattered, as long as they’re in sync with the organization’s values. Trask says one of her employees had made improvements to the Raiders’ website and social media platforms. That was okay, but not a major priority. However, the employee then went to the ticket, luxury suite, and sponsorship departments and both helped them understand the improvements and brainstorm how these platforms could help them improve sales. That showed both initiative and an understanding of some of the big-picture objectives of the company.
Salary levels vary based on experience, skill level, and geography. It’s important to understand, by objective measures, what people in your field and in your area are being paid, says speaker and salary negotiation expert Jim Hopkinson, author of Salary Tutor: Learn the Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You. There are a number of resources to get intelligence on salary levels:
Salary research websites.
Sites like Salary.com, PayScale, and Glassdoor have added new elements of transparency by allowing people to anonymously share salary levels for different positions at different companies.
Job board sites.
This is typically more useful for new positions, but looking at similar jobs with salary ranges posted—he estimates that roughly 20% list such ranges—can give you a good idea of what a new hire is getting.
General salary surveys.
Industry pay surveys and general guides like those by Robert Half can give additional insight into the going rate.
If you have contacts who are recruiters experienced in your line of work, they may also be able to provide insight into pay ranges, as well as how your company stacks up against competition.
Compensation goes beyond money, which is important to keep in mind during salary negotiations. If you can’t get a higher salary, what can you get? Improved flexibility, telecommuting options, or other benefits that have value to you may be options, says Kathleen Downs, recruiting manager at Robert Half Finance & Accounting. Or you could try to peg increases to achievement of certain goals. For example, once you become proficient in a certain area, you and your supervisor will review your compensation again.
Once you have a number in mind, it’s also important to understand some of the internal factors that might be at play, says Downs. Some companies have pay thresholds in place that are tough to get around. Some organizations limit salary or other compensation increases, either because of policy, because it will cause some with less experience or seniority to be more highly paid than someone with more, or for other reasons.
So, unless you know that there are no such constraints, it’s best not to "go in with a hard and fast number," she says. "So it's very difficult for the boss then if they're thinking you've got a set number in your mind—anything below that and you will be dissatisfied," she says. It’s better to go in with a range in your head and negotiate from there.
If you went in to negotiate your salary with Trask before the Super Bowl, chances are she wasn’t going to be very receptive, she says. She expected her people to go through the season’s cycle with the team to prove their worth at every point—and that cycle ended with the big game.
Similarly, you have to understand your own company’s cycles, she says. When are budgets set? When is the end of your company’s fiscal year? Is the company growing or is it in a down season? If you’re going in for a salary bump near the end of the budget year, but before new spending is approved, it may hinder your success, she says. While timing may not entirely put off your ask, it’s a good idea to at least show your bosses you’re aware of your organization’s financial ebbs and flows.