Prove your worth…by Accountancy Ireland & Barden (Career Guide 2017)
Whether you’re closing the deal on a new role or in a role with no intention to move, salary negotiations should be on the table. We help you overcome the taboo around salary negotiations and put your best foot forward.
Let’s get one thing straight – you’re expected to negotiate your salary whether you’re in a job or applying for a new job. Sitting back and accepting what’s coming isn’t the mark of a great leader. As an accounting professional, you negotiate proactively every day, whether it’s direct negotiation on numeric matters or indirect negotiation where you seek to influence and persuade the people you work with on important issues. If you can’t negotiate with confidence on something as personally important as salary, you’re possibly in the wrong job! That’s not to say you have to be needlessly combative but when discussing salary, you must be prepared to approach it like a business conversation – without emotion, with a well-reasoned request, an understanding of your ‘walk-away’ point and a really solid business case to support you.
Look objectively at performance data
20% salary increase if you know the company is really struggling. Likewise, you can’t ask for a meaningful pay rise if your performance has been poor. You must consider all factors, from company performance to your individual performance. Also, consider what’s contained in your contract about remuneration increases before knocking on anyone’s door. Equipped with this information, you’ll find it easier to refute lazy objections to considering a salary increase once the conversation is opened. The old chestnut of the ongoing ripple effects of the global financial crisis is harder to accept when you know that the company’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBIDTA) increased by over 17% in the last two years.
Identify your market worth
This may sound obvious, but if you don’t know what people of your experience are worth in the jobs market, you can’t negotiate properly. Don’t rely on last year’s information either; salaries have changed a good deal in the last 12 months, so talk to an expert – you may be overdue a pay rise. Once you know what to expect, you must be clear on what you’re asking for. Thinly disguised requests for a rise won’t be taken seriously, nor will unrealistic requests. If you’re in a job, there are other things to consider of course – most critically, alignment with peers and formal processes regarding salary reviews. The important thing to remember is that you must begin the conversation from a clearly defined starting point. The rest is compromise and skilful negotiation.
Prepare a business case
Most salary negotiations happen at review time, so you will most likely have an appraisal document and set of results to back-up your salary increase request. Use this appraisal information effectively – identify where you’ve added the most monetary value over the last 12 months and use that as your core argument. Examples could be: growing the team (and your role remit) to provide an integrated business partnering service, which has contributed to a 20% improvement in gross profit; or leadership of an outsourcing initiative that will deliver a 15% reduction in administrative costs. Your value must be linked to a quantifiable monetary outcome. You’re asking for money, so you must prove your worth.
Above all, the most important thing is to prevent emotion from playing a part in the process. Salary is important personally – it’s a marker that determines your “value” to your employer and to your social world, so it’s natural to feel heightened responses to arguments that haven’t gone your way. Preventing conversations getting heated, sour, or worse – buried – is important, so separate the connection between you and the money and treat it like any other part of your role as a finance leader, negotiator, influencer and communicator. If anything, it’s an opportunity to show your superiors your professional self at its very best.
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