Disappointing pay rise? Here’s what to ask for instead 


Skilled professionals have a lot of leverage in salary negotiations today. Low unemployment, organisations increasing headcounts and a talent shortage are leading to salary increases. But while the number and value of salary increases is rising this year, every organisation has an upper limit on their annual pay rise budget – if your salary increase falls short of expectations, there are alternatives you can negotiate to bridge the divide.  

The Hays Salary Guide FY23/24 shows that 95 per cent of employers plan to offer pay rises in the year ahead. Of these, 29 per cent will offer an increase up to three per cent. A further 53 per cent will increase salaries between three and six per cent, while 10 per cent will raise them by between seven and 10 per cent. The final three per cent intend to increase salaries by more than 10 per cent.

This welcome news demonstrates that both the number and value of salary increases continues to rise. However, any manager has a salary budget to adhere to – and it can only stretch so far. So, despite salaries continuing their upwards trajectory overall, your pay rise still might not meet your expectations.  

In such cases, this isn’t the end of the negotiations. Provided you are meeting your objectives, there are other ways to ensure the value you receive is commensurate with your performance. 

What to ask for instead of a pay rise

Your total compensation package consists of both a financial compensation and more tangible and intangible benefits. These might include a positive work environment, flexibility, a good work-life balance, training, opportunities for progression, a supportive and caring manager and a sense of belonging.  
When a salary increase isn’t in line with what you were hoping for, consider what additional benefits you can ask for. 


Whether you are motivated by your career progression plan or the need to keep your skills relevant in our rapidly changing world of work, continuous upskilling is now an imperative for many. So, if a pay rise is not on offer or misses your expectations, can your boss offer further support for your skills development?  

Training through either internal or external courses (such as those offered through Hays Learning) is the number one benefit employees seek today. But upskilling does not need to only involve formal courses. For instance, what challenging or exciting new work could you volunteer for to expand your skills? Is there a new project that interests you? Or is there an opportunity to learn new skills from a colleague or adjacent manager? Mentorships, webinars and industry events can also help you build new skills. 

You could also ask your boss about any desirable skills the team currently lacks. If these align with your career ambitions, your manager is likely to support upskilling in these areas to future-proof the abilities of the wider team.

Career progression 

A formal career path is another common benefit and for most skilled professionals, career progression is hugely important. 

With skills in demand thanks to the labour shortage, now could be the perfect time to take the lead and ask your manager to support you in charting your future with the organisation.  

Before you meet with your boss, think about your long-term career goals and where you want to be in the next two, five- and 10-years’ time. Once you design these goals, set a meeting with your manager to discuss your ambitions and the career pathways available. 

A manager who is supportive of your long-term career goals can be a huge asset. However, it’s up to you to do the hard work to achieve what is required to qualify for each promotion.

Additional annual leave

Permanent employees accumulate four weeks of paid annual leave, but a growing number of employers offer additional paid time off work to stand out as an employer of choice. 
If time is money, an extra couple of days off each year could be a suitable middle ground for both you and your employer to bridge any salary increase divide. In fact, over 20 days of annual leave is the third most important benefit employees want today, behind only training and career progression opportunities. 

Additional flexible working

Asking for additional or continued workplace flexibility can also bridge a salary expectation gap. Many professionals continue to define what flexibility means to them in the workplace. For desk-based staff, this usually takes the form of regular hybrid working whether that’s on their own terms or via a set schedule of in-office and home working days. 
While flexibility in where you work has now been embedded, when you work is also being reimagined. While not a new trend, over the past year the number of employees who want to work outside core business hours and in compressed working weeks has increased.  The interest in four-day working weeks continues to grow. With several examples of organisations in Australia/New Zealand implementing four-day working weeks, many employees are hungry for more varied flexible approaches.

Other benefits

Other common benefits include wellbeing leave, mental and physical health and wellbeing programs, recognition, work-life balance, a positive work environment and work that is meaningful to you.  
Or you could consider asking for additional financial support in the form of budget for home office setup or supplies, share incentives, payment of professional membership fees, paid leave for professional study, payment of usage charges for employee-owned devices used at work or salary sacrifice. 
Asking to bring your next remuneration review forward is another option to help offset a less-than-expected pay rise.

Look to your future

For many people, a smaller than hoped for pay rise can be upsetting and demotivating. But remember, salary is not the only way to recognise your value and recent successes. 
Additional benefits can have positive long-term consequences for both your career and your overall health and wellbeing. 
Many people would agree this is worth more in the long run than a small discrepancy between what you hoped for and what you were offered. 

Download our Hays Salary Guide

Our annual Hays Salary Guide FY23/24 is based on a survey of over 6,900 organisations and more than 7,300 skilled professionals. Whether you are asking for a pay rise or simply want to know your worth, download your copy to access typical salaries and insights relevant to your job and career path. 

About this author

Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.

Follow Nick on LinkedIn

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