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

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Skilled professionals have a lot of leverage in salary negotiations today. Record-low unemployment, rising headcounts and an acute talent shortage are leading to salary increases. But every organisation has an upper limit to their annual pay rise budget – if your salary increase falls short of expectations, there are alternatives you can negotiate to bridge the divide.
 
Our Hays Salary Guide FY22/23 shows that 88% of employers plan to offer pay rises in the year ahead. While 37% will increase salaries above 3%, over half (51%) will give increases of less than 3%. 
 
This suggests that while organisations are confident (77% expect business activity to increase in the year ahead), salary budgets remain tight. Given this, you may find that your pay rise doesn’t equal your expectations. 
 
In such cases, this isn’t the end of the negotiations. Provided you are meeting your objectives and the typical external salaries for your role are higher than your raise, there are other ways to ensure the value you receive is commensurate with your performance.

What to ask for instead of a pay rise

The value exchange you receive for your skills and experience extends beyond salary to encompass benefits, professional development opportunities, exciting projects and other perks important to you. When a salary increase isn’t in line with what you were hoping for, consider what else you can ask for.
 

Upskilling

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? 
 
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 and webinars or industry events can also aid skills development.
 
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 team.
 

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 a salary increase divide. In fact, over 20 days of annual leave is the second most important benefit employees want today, behind only training. 
 

Career progression

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

With skills in demand thanks to an acute labour shortage, now is the 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 goals and where you want to be in the next two, five- and 10-years’ time. Once you plot your career goals, ask your boss for a one-on-one meeting to discuss your ambitions and the career pathways available. 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. 
 

Additional flexible working

Asking for additional or continued workplace flexibility can also bridge a salary expectation gap. Many professionals continue to challenge the notion of what flexibility means to them. For office-based staff, this usually takes the form of regular hybrid working on their own terms rather than a set schedule of in-office and home working days.
 
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 also increased. Belgium recently adopted a compressed four-day working week, and several examples of organisations in New Zealand implementing four-day working weeks, many employers will consider more varied flexible approaches.
 
Other flexible working options include part-time and school hours employment, job sharing and phased retirements.
 
 While not all workplaces can offer flexible working, if yours can it is a strong benefit worth considering in lieu of the salary increase you hoped for.
 

Other benefits

Other common benefits include mental and physical health and wellbeing programs, a company car, car allowance or onsite parking, 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 and salary sacrifice.
 
Asking to bring your next annual 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 FY22/23 is based on a survey of over 4,500 organisations and more than 4,800 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

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.

Follow Adam on LinkedIn