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How to ask for a raise during COVID-19
Even as the pandemic forces many businesses to slash their budgets, tech skills are needed more than ever. Use these tips to prove your value and get a pay raise in turbulent times
Enterprises large and small are grappling with challenges related to the new remote workforce. Add a shortage of skilled technologists, combined with impending immigration reforms in the U.S. and limited local and global mobility, and you have the perfect environment for technology professionals to ask for a raise.
The problem, of course, is that the economic fallout of COVID-19 is forcing many companies to scale back on raises, promotions, and hiring. There could be additional barriers as well, such as company policies that limit raises to once a year, or managers who don’t fully understand what you do or who lack the political capital to fight for a raise during these challenging times.
Still, if you want to pursue a raise right now, it’s essential to strengthen your position before, during, and after the ask. Here’s how.
1. Know your worth
Before you ask for a raise, make sure you evaluate your motivation and your satisfaction with your job, manager, and company. It is imperative to consider all factors, including working conditions, purpose, location, and of course, pay.
Don’t attempt to negotiate salary until you’ve done some research based on your individual circumstances – a recent college graduate, for example, should take a different approach than an experienced professional. Employees may have the best leverage when they’re accepting a new job or applying for a promotion with a change of salary.
Women, in particular, should feel empowered to ask for raises. According to ISACA’s Tech Workforce 2020 research, more women (74 percent) than men (64 percent) say they have been offered a salary increase or job level promotion in the last two years. This may be a result of organizations actively addressing gender pay gaps.
2. Keep it simple
Asking for a raise should not be an overly complicated process – so skip the multi-slide PowerPoint presentation and instead simply make a solid case. To build an argument and present it intelligently, you must understand and be able to explain clearly how you make and/or save money for your company or how you avoid risk.
- Highlight the value of your contributions and projects and build a theoretical ROI.
- Know the value of similar work in your market and in your geographic area.
- Avoid presumptive and confrontational language such as “I deserve this” or “You are underpaying me.”
3. Highlight in-demand skills
IT professionals can make the case to their managers that their skills and expertise are increasingly valuable and necessary to ensure business continuity and enterprise security during and after the current pandemic.
For instance, according to ISACA’s COVID-19 Study, only 51 percent of technology professionals and leaders are highly confident that their cybersecurity teams are ready to detect and respond to the rising cybersecurity attacks during COVID-19. Professionals with security skills should highlight how they bring value to the organization during the era of remote work, especially since it is difficult for many organizations to recruit and retain people with these skills.
[ Read also: IT careers: How to job hunt during a pandemic. ]
4. Have a timing strategy, and a plan B
Be strategic in your timing. The worst time to negotiate a raise is during performance reviews, when many of your colleagues may also be asking for increases. Instead, be first to propose a number. Also, if you counter a standard 2 percent raise with 8 percent, your boss may respond less than favorably: They’ve already secured a raise for you, and they may not be inclined to go to the well a second time.
Be prepared to pivot to other possibilities if a raise is not possible – for example, stock options, extra vacation days, attending a conference, flexible hours, being given an especially interesting assignment, and other such perks could also improve your situation and acknowledge your value.
5. Know that "no" doesn't mean "never"
Despite the potential hurdles, organizations are always well-served to recognize employees with needed skills and compensate them accordingly – especially since many of these employees are likely to move on if they don’t feel valued.
By the same token, let your employer know if you are interested in growing with the company and want to be considered for promotions and increased pay. The Tech Workforce 2020 research shows that 70 percent of the workforce say they “definitely” or “may” foresee changing jobs in the next two years.
Asking for a raise is an important part of the career development process, but timing is critical. If your request is declined, it’s not the end of the line. Continue excelling at your job, assessing your motivation and goals, and reviewing the reasons you deserve an increase, and revisit the conversation in a few months.
[ Want more on trends in IT talent? Read the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: IT Talent Strategy: New Tactics for a New Era. ]