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

Worker drinking coffee and reading blog on laptop

You may be expecting a salary increase in your next review, but achieving what you think you’re worth is not always possible. 

Our Hays Salary Guide FY21/22 shows that three-quarters of employers plan to offer pay rises in the year ahead. But over half will give increases of less than 3%. 

While organisations are returning to growth 68% of employers have returned to growth or rapid growth and 70% say business activity will increase over the next 12 months), salary budgets remain tight. Given this, if you do receive a pay rise, you may find that it doesn’t live up to your expectations. 

This isn’t the end of the road though when it comes to the annual reassessment of your worth. With the value of salary increases in 2021/22  set to be minimal, negotiating additional benefits can help bridge the divide. 

So, if you feel that the value of your salary increase fails to match your results and efforts over the past year, you can ask your boss about non-financial benefits.After all, such benefits can not only help to reward your recent successes, but can also have a positive impact on your career long term. 

What to ask for instead of a pay rise 

Career progression 

The most common non-financial benefit to consider is a career progression pathway. For most skilled professionals, career progression is hugely important. In fact, it is the second most important benefit employees want today, behind only regular flexible work practices. 

But while career progression is valued, just 17% of employees expect to receive a promotion this financial year. Almost over one-fifth say the scope for career progression has decreased because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It seems that now is the time to be proactive and ask your manager to support you in charting out your career progression with the organisation. But before you meet with your boss, think about your long-term goals and where you want to be in ten years’ time.  

Once you have a firm idea of your plans, ask your boss for a one-on-one meeting to discuss your ambitions and the promotional pathways available within the organisation. Make sure you gain transparency on the skills and achievements required for each new job or promotion.

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 and achieve what is required to qualify for each promotion. 

For more on planning your career path, see our Career Goal Planner.    


Whether you are motivated by your career progression plan or a necessity to remain relevant in today’s world of work, continuous upskilling is vital. So, if a pay rise is not on offer or is negligible, can your boss instead support your skills development? 

Upskilling does not need to involve expensive external courses. There are other options you can propose that won’t break your manager’s budget while giving you the opportunity to advance your skills.

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 digital skills from a colleague?  Mentorships and free online microlearning courses can also aid skills development. 

You could also ask your boss about the skills the team needs but is currently lacking – by upskilling in these areas, your boss can support your development while also ensuring the organisation has the skills required to meet its goals for the year ahead.

This isn’t to suggest you should upskill in whatever area your boss identifies without considering your personal career ambitions or skill shortfalls. Instead, know what you want before going into your meeting with your boss and find the common ground, so a win-win upskilling plan can be put in place.

Hybrid working 

Asking for additional or continued workplace flexibility could also help bridge the salary expectation gap. 

Continued hybrid working is one of the most sought-after flexible working benefits today. Blending time in the office with time offsite, 64% of office-based workers say they will look for a role offering hybrid working when they next job search. 

However, as employers navigate their way out of the pandemic, more time than less in the office is their next goal. In 12 months’ time, 66% would prefer their staff to be working one, two or three days remotely, with the remainder in the office. 

So, if you would like to spend more time working remotely, you’ll need to approach your boss with a considered hybrid working plan that balances the benefits of both onsite and remote working.

Other flexible working options

Hybrid working is not the only flexible working option you could negotiate with your manager. Of the workplaces that currently allow for flexible work practices, 60% offer informal flexible working at the line manager’s discretion and 54% offer flexible working hours, such as the scope to change work hours outside of core business times, as well as:

  • Part-time employment (36%)
  • Flexible leave options, such as purchased leave (16%)
  • Fully remote working (15%),
  • Compressed working weeks (16%),
  • Job sharing (8%), and
  • Phased retirements (7%) are also on offer. 

Not all workplaces can offer flexible working, but for those that can it is a strong benefit worth considering in lieu of the salary increase you hoped for.

Additional days off

Another is additional days off work. If time is money, an extra couple of days off each year could be a suitable middle ground for both you and your employer.

Look to your future

For many people, working up the courage to ask for a pay rise, to then have your request either rejected or your expectations left unmet, can be upsetting. But remember, salary is not the only way to recognise your value and recent successes. 

With a salary expectation divide evident between employers and employees, skills development, a career progression pathway, upskilling, flexible working options or additional days off 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 salary increase here and now.

Download our Hays Salary Guide

Our annual Hays Salary Guide FY21/22 is based on a survey of close to 600 organisations and more than 500 skilled professionals in New Zealand. 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

Adam Shapley, Managing Director, Hays New Zealand and Hays IT Australia & New Zealand, began working at Hays in 2001 and during this time has held significant leadership roles across the business including responsibility for multiple specialisms in various locations across Australia & New Zealand.

In 2018, he was appointed to Hays ANZ Management Board and made Managing Director for Hays New Zealand.

Adam is also responsible for the strategic direction of the Hays Information Technology business across Australia & New Zealand including driving growth across Digital Technology, Projects & Business Change and IT Operations & Support.

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