A member of your team has asked to speak to you about a salary increase. Money may be the tip of the management iceberg, and there are things about a person’s job they value over money. But make no mistake, financial compensation does matter. And if someone has proven themselves an essential part of your team, it’s only fair to hear them out. Here’s 10 questions you can use to explore their request for a pay review.

Before pay reviews were commonplace, your staff had to seek out a pay rise on their own initiative. But employees may worry about damaging their career prospects. Or they could be cynical about the likelihood of success.

And this affects some demographics more than others. Like how it contributes to the gender pay gap. A CV-Library survey of 1,200 UK workers found men were more likely to ask for a pay rise than women. 64% of male employees were comfortable asking for a raise, compared to 43% of women. In fact, 55% of women had never asked for a pay-rise. On top of that, women who did ask still got smaller increases on average compared to men.

Set up a formal pay review meeting

A formal pay review process makes this conversation more accessible. It legitimizes the employee’s desire for better compensation by framing it as a conversation, not an interrogation.

Zensai has out-of-the-box automated conversation templates to streamline this process. They work based on employee check-in updates as well as 360° feedback if you’ve used it. It’s all underpinned by performance conversations best practice. But before we get to that stage, we need to work out what questions to ask.

Questions to ask when an employee wants a pay rise

1. How would you describe your own performance?

Pay reviews have quite a bit in common with performance reviews. You and your employee need to agree on what’s fair. That means you need to arrive at a shared understanding of their performance. That’s why, of all the pay review questions to ask, this should be near the top of your list. This question can easily segue into further discussion about specific accomplishments and challenges.

2. What professional development have you undertaken to support a pay rise?

Employees are an investment for the company. If you’re supporting them to the fullest extent, they’ll gain new skills along with their general experience. It goes without saying that a significant promotion usually comes with a pay bump. But even up-skilling or gaining specialized experience can increase an employee’s value. So, sometimes, it’s necessary to revisit how much you pay them for their time. But employees should be able to support the request for a pay increase with a couple of examples of how they have progressed. If they can’t it doesn’t mean they are not deserving, help them build their own case and support their questions about a pay review.

3. How would you rate your current wellbeing?

Recent years have dragged employee wellbeing to the forefront, and with good reason. Unchecked job stress and devastates employees’ physical and mental health. Last year, HSE found that there were 822,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK. That equates to a prevalence rate of 2,480 for every 100,000 workers. But, as with the other pay review questions on this list, use it as a basis for further discussion. Wellbeing isn’t some monolithic, single issue. There’s mental health, physical wellbeing, social connectedness and more to consider.

4. Does this job provide adequate financial security?

Financial wellbeing is another aspect to be aware of. It may be that your staff need raises because they’re struggling to make ends meet. If it’s a common theme among your people, then clearly, you need to re-evaluate compensation across the whole business. Just make sure not to push too hard with these sorts of pay review questions. Employees are under no obligation to discuss their personal finances with you. Some may worry that discussing financial hardship could affect your judgement of them.

5. Is there anything about your role that you would change?

Employees asking for pay review meetings out of the blue can mean a lot of things. They might need the money, or a competitor could be headhunting them. But, sometimes, it can mean some aspect of their job is wearing on their nerves. An employee might be passionate about their work, and love their employer. But that doesn’t mean they love every part of their job. Requesting a pay review can mean an employee is looking for a reason to keep putting up with something. It can be more cost-effective to work with employees to eliminate these issues.

6. Do you feel your role uses your strengths most effectively?

Again, a big reason for asking employees pay review questions is to get a shared understanding of their performance. Reflecting on the effort an employee gives you is straight-forward enough. But, sometimes, it doesn’t match up to the excellence they feel they’re capable of. But strengths-based management has gained traction in recent years. CIPD research shows that a strengths-based approach has a significant impact. In fact, even a single half-day training workshop for managers has been shown to improve employee performance.

7. What has been your biggest challenge so far?

This is a much more tactful approach to take than asking something like, “What’s your biggest weakness?” Questions like that always seem like such a poisoned chalice. But, by framing it as a challenge that was overcome, you remove a lot of the negativity.

8. Do you have everything you need to do your job?

They say it’s a poor craftsman that blames their tools. But, to be fair, having the right tools at work makes a world of difference. Working on outdated hardware or software stymies performance. And to make matters worse, it just adds to the stress employees are under during big crunches.

It’s fair enough for people to ask questions about getting a pay review. Sure, new professional tools generally aren’t cheap. But, sometimes, the most cost-effective solution is to remove frustrating barriers altogether. Asking employees about the tech they actually want can make all the difference on your next rollout.

9. Are there any other benefits that could improve your experience?

Employee perks are by no means a substitute for fair compensation. Nor do they make up for a toxic workplace culture. But provided they’re things your people actually want, they can be an extra incentive, and in some cases vital. The right perk can make an employee’s life easier, whether that’s a company car, private healthcare or improved job flexibility. So make sure you find out if there is anything else beyond just salary increases that could benefit your people.

10. What are your current expectations around pay?

The other pay review questions on this list mainly deal with the context around the request. How well they’re performing, the issues they’re dealing with, and so on. But past a certain point, you’ve got to get down to brass tacks. Having prepared for this meeting, chances are that you have some idea of the business’s budget. So you should have some idea of what you can reasonably offer. Even so, it’s still a negotiation. You need to establish whether their expectations are realistic. They might have calculated a percentage increase, or they could just have some random figure in their head. At that point, it’s your job to make it clear what sort of increase (if any) they could reasonably expect.