Today we feature a really interesting guest post from Kayleigh Alexandra at Micro Startups. Thanks Kayleigh.
The balance of power between employers and employees is ever wavering, but the events of recent times (most notably the calamitous consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic) have heaped pressure on many workers to prioritise safety above everything else — and you can hardly blame them for succumbing to that pressure. They have bills to pay, children to feed, and debts to manage. It isn’t a good idea to rock the boat if there are no other vessels in the vicinity.
Due to this, employers on the whole have been able to resist upping their rates. They know that most of their employees won’t be comfortable asking for more money — and those that do won’t have the leverage to demand it. Some would raise their rates but genuinely can’t afford to. And with inflation always looming, this results in a lot of deep-seated frustration.
Wage stagnation doesn’t make for great working conditions, though, and managers know that unhappy workers inevitably produce mediocre results. As a result, they can be convinced to make other concessions, but the onus is on you to get the ball rolling. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say. To that end, here are some tips for getting more from your employer:
Suggest a boost to your pension plan
In the UK, it’s legally mandatory for your employer to contribute to a workplace pension provided you meet certain basic criteria, but how much they offer (past the current minimum) is up to them. If they’re unwilling or unable to increase your salary by a meaningful amount, they may be willing to up their contribution to your pension plan. Raising it by a few percentage points might not matter in the short term, but in the long run it could make a reasonable difference.
Why wouldn’t they want to simply pay you a small amount extra directly? Because there’s an added element of long-term investment to the pension tactic. While it’s possible to carry a workplace pension over to a subsequent employer, it’s inconvenient, so asking for a bump to your pension contribution is also indicating that you’re willing to stick around.
Ask to have some core expenses covered
When companies had to pivot to remote working early in 2020, many old expenses went away, but some new ones entered the picture. Other companies fundamentally relied on being mobile and had to keep going as they were (think about fleet-based businesses such as delivery or transport services, or solo car-centric operations), meaning that their expenses never changed.
Whatever your role, then, there’s sure to be something you’re called upon to pay for with which your employer could (and probably should) help you. Maybe you could really use a new chair for your home office because you’re experiencing significant discomfort. The trick here is to focus on what they’d get in return. That new chair wouldn’t just make you feel better: it would also prevent injury-related downtime and increase your productivity through improved morale.
And then there’s the reimbursement process which can often be made easier. If you’re being tasked with driving to and from various places to drop things off and finding that the process of claiming the fuel costs back is quite onerous, you can suggest a carefully-selected fuel card (they vary, but there are online resources to help when comparing). Why? Because it wouldn’t just make your life easier: it would also save your employer money and give them a fresh source of insight for their general analytics.
Propose an expansion to operational flexibility
Some businesses are extremely slow-moving due to clumsy and overly-stiff processes. They need managerial approval on a frequent basis, seek to micromanage their employees, and shy away from attempting new tactics. This isn’t just bad for their fortunes: it’s also bad for their employees because it saps their morale and leaves them dispirited.
The pandemic era has shown just how little of the classic office model was really necessary, with teams that previously worked in close proximity remaining highly productive while working from home, so employers should be much more receptive to proposed tweaks. If you’d like to work during the night on occasion, or stagger your hours throughout the week, then ask. Or maybe you’d just like to have more autonomy during the average day. If you can make the case that productivity won’t suffer, you should be able to convince your employer to acquiesce.
Request an achievement-driven career path
Where is your job going? You may have little idea. It’s hardly uncommon for people to secure roles then float along in reactive fashion until circumstances get in the way — but that doesn’t mean that it’s the smart way to proceed. You should take your professional pursuits seriously, and that means having some notion of what you hope to achieve in the coming years (alongside the steps you may need to take independently to further your goals, as the HBR notes here).
Your employer won’t (or can’t) pay you more today, sure. But will they be able to pay you more in a year? Or in a couple of years? And what can they do to develop your role? Will you be given opportunities to try different tasks and acquire new skills? It isn’t about demanding that they give you a faultless prediction. It’s about asking for a commitment to a viable path with progress determined by your measurable performance.
Consider the annoyance of being told that you could earn promotion eventually but never knowing what exactly you’d need to do for it. Focus on metrics (getting away from general traits that employers like), and put their feet to the fire. What targets do you need to hit to earn a pay rise? If possible, get them to confirm in writing that they’ll promote you if you hit the identified targets. That’ll give you some ammunition to use in the event that they don’t follow through and you wish to pursue legal action.
Getting a pay rise is the classic reward that all employees covet, but having that option off the table doesn’t mean you’re lacking worthwhile options. Follow these tips to get other things from your employer and make your job easier and more rewarding — then bide your time until you can top them off with a salary increase.