Asking for a pay rise can be one of the more nerve-wracking parts of the employee experience. You don’t want to seem ungrateful, but at the same time, you only get what you’re willing to ask for. Fortunately, there are a few simple pay review preparation steps that you can take to help you make your case.

Pay reviews are part and parcel of working life. Although it can be daunting, asking for a pay review is a very standard request. An one that you should never fear. If you believe you deserve a raise, don’t be afraid to ask for one. Particularly if it’s been more than a year since your last.

Pay review preparation tips

1. Understand your employer’s pay review framework

Generally speaking, employers aren’t legally obligated to offer pay increases, even to match inflation. But most employers recognize the role salary plays in keeping their best people. As such it’s a conversation most managers and leaders expect to have with their people. The way a business might approach employee pay rises can vary quite a bit. So, before you fire off an email of demands to your line manager or HR, you ought to figure out the rules of the game for your employer.

How to ask for a pay review when you work in a large company

Larger businesses with lots of staff sometimes provide incremental pay increases to everyone. They’ll often do that at a specific point in the year, so people can know to expect it. But if you want a more significant raise, you may still have to schedule a formal pay review.

And we do mean that you should go out of your way to schedule it. If your employer’s upping everyone’s salaries at the same time, they probably won’t take the time to meet with every employee first. That would involve reviews for potentially thousands of staff. Make sure you’re heard. Be bold and speak with your manager when you think a personalized pay review is needed.

How to ask for a pay review when you work in a small company

In small to medium businesses, these things can sometimes be a bit more ad-hoc. It might not occur to your manager to review pay until you bring the issue to their attention. Therefore, it’s essential to shake off any pay review anxiety. Otherwise, even a well-meaning boss might overlook you. Bear in mind, there still might be a formal framework for raising your request. But it may also be as simple as scheduling a meeting with your manager.

2. Be realistic about your salary increase expectations, but have a target in mind

Aside from protocol, you should also try to get an idea of your company’s budget. You might feel entitled to a major pay bump. But whether your employer can afford to provide it or not is another matter altogether. Poor timing can sink even a reasonable pay request, so where possible be strategic about when you ask.

Once you know what the standards are in your industry, the next step in preparing for a pay review is to pick your target. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to improvise. If it seems like you’re just making it up as you go, your manager’s less likely to take you seriously.

Depending on your finances, there might be a specific amount you need to have stability. So, you might choose to walk in with a specific increase to fight for. Regardless, there’s not much sense having a pay review if you don’t have at least some idea of what you want or deserve. But it can help if you have a range in your head, even if you don’t tell your manager outright. Having a minimum you’ll accept, as well as a maximum you’ll try to ask for, makes it much easier to discuss. Remember, while this is a manager/employee interaction, it’s still ultimately a negotiation.

3. Review your recent performance before you ask for a raise

Before you request a pay review look back on your recent performance. In theory, anything you’ve accomplished in your time with the business is fair game. But focus mostly on work you’ve completed since your last pay review. Don’t forget, like anyone, your manager is susceptible to recency bias. They’re more likely to remember and lend weight to your most recent achievements or failures.

So, if you’re relying on performance anecdotes from a year ago, make sure they’re compelling enough to warrant a raise. This sort of thing is much easier if your employer uses regular feedback and goal tracking. For example, if you use an employee check-in like ours, you’ll have a full history of your successes and team recognition to rely on.

It’s best if you can point to an uptick in your goal updates, or recognition from colleagues. With these things laid out, it’s much easier to argue your case. When gathering info to support your case, pay special attention to:

  • Accomplishments, especially recent ones
  • Examples of discretionary effort
  • Newly acquired skills and qualifications
  • Peer recognition
  • 360 feedback

4. Research the market to know your worth

Your manager likes you, but probably not enough to simply pay what you ask if it’s not reasonable. This is arguably the most important pay review preparation tip – you absolutely need to research the market and understand the going rate. You won’t get far if you don’t understand the industry or sector you’re in. Go and ask for double salary if you want, but don’t expect to get it if it’s not aligned to what others in your field are getting.

In the past, talking about things like salary or perks has been characterized as a social faux pas. But that line of thinking doesn’t benefit employees at all. What it does is enable employers to operate without transparency and play favorites. But these days, it’s easier than ever to find out what others have experienced in your role. Websites like Glassdoor enable people to report things like salary.

5. Practice how you might ask for a pay review

Chances are that you’re not the only person to have been in this position. So, if you can find a colleague you trust, try playing out the conversation with them first. This can be anyone, of course. But double points if they’re someone who’s been through your company’s pay review process before. That way, they’ll have a mental roadmap of some of the pitfalls you might run into. They may even have personal experience with the manager or HR BP you’ll be talking to.

6. Consult with your workplace mentor, if you have one

One of the many benefits of a solid workplace mentor program is having someone you can talk to about sensitive subjects such as pay. Mentors can offer you a level of guidance with these kinds of interactions that nobody else can. Mentors have usually seen and heard it all when it comes to your company. They’ll have experience of going through pay reviews, fighting with the anxiety of a request like this and will undoubtedly have some top tips of their own.

Don’t wait until your next performance conversation to ask for a raise

Sometimes you might just think it’s easier to stay quiet and wait for an opportune moment, like your next performance conversation. But no. The key to pay review preparation is focus. Book in that pay review conversation and start to compile your evidence right now. Sitting and stewing on it helps nobody in the long run. You’ll become less satisfied with your work life, likely lose motivation, become less engaged and ultimately your performance and loyalty will wane.