Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Earn your worth, by making salary negotiations an ongoing conversation

Salary negotiations are the one work-related activity employees dread the most, but if you approach it the right way - it could turn out well.

It is important for employees to make salary negotiations an ongoing conversation during the year instead of a once-off motivation at the end of the year that leaves you disappointed when you do not get the increase you feel you deserve.

Salary negotiations is a stressful endeavour for most employees and is usually left until the end of the year when performance reviews take place. Many walk away from this short session disappointed, without the package they believe they deserve.

This is especially true now, given the harsh global economic climate and with company budget strings being pulled tight, Debbie Goodman, CEO at Jack Hammer Global, says. If you want to bolster your chances of negotiating a better package in 2023, you must completely change your approach.

“Instead of waiting until year-end, kick off an ongoing conversation from early in the year. Contrary to the belief that has stuck around for most of our working lives, the time to have the promotion and salary increase conversation is not at the end of the year or at the end of salary cycle.”

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Showcase your value in the ongoing conversation

Goodman says to showcase your value to the organisation and imbed the recognition of your positive contribution in the minds of the decision-makers, you have to continuously monitor your own achievements, performance, input and contributions throughout the year and share that information strategically on an ongoing basis.

Questions arising around salary negotiations include:

  • Why are negotiating salary packages prickly and awkward, particularly for women?
  • How do you overcome the stigma of self-promotion?
  • How do you prepare for a salary review conversation?
  • Which elements of a compensation package, besides salary, can be put on the table?

“Keeping track of your contribution and achievements throughout the year is not just an important strategy in terms of negotiating the best possible package, but also an invaluable performance management tool so that you can be confident that you are indeed developing in your career,” says Goodman.

“While tracking your performance, you must also cultivate the skill of presenting your accomplishments in an appropriate manner, to the right people at the right time. That can be a delicate matter and the question of what is appropriate will be unique to each individual and the culture within the organisation.”

She advises the key is to make a constant effort and not try and scramble through your long list of achievements within a limited amount of time when your performance review comes around. “In fact, that ‘list’ should already have been well-communicated by the time the formal discussion arises, so that that opportunity becomes mostly a formality for sealing the deal.”

Goodman says employees must aim to have an informal performance discussion monthly, but at the very least quarterly.

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Salary negotiations with authentic benchmarking

“You must take the initiative to request a quick 15-minute review call, to ensure you and your manager are on the same page and agree that you are on track with your KPIs and outputs. In that conversation, do an authentic benchmarking and review of where you are, as well as sharing areas where you outperformed and achieved over and above what is expected.”

She says putting your achievements out there on a consistent basis can be very challenging, especially for women, who still have this feeling that “bragging” or self-promotion is distasteful.

“However, toning it down is not doing you any favours in the real world. Build this muscle to be able to share your contribution in a subtle, yet clear and consistent way. It is about finding the language and getting comfortable with sharing your accomplishments with the right stakeholders, to demonstrate your value.”

Goodman suggest that you do not just promote yourself, but also others where appropriate. “Finding the right tone is an art, but it can and should be done if you want to be recognised and acknowledged for your work to the extent that you deserve to be.”

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