By Jas Singh
The City of London is a pretty secretive place. The traditional home of powerful investment banks and behind the scene hedge funds. The 007 of the business world.
When I first started working here over 10 years ago approaching new people could be a cloak and dagger affair. Unless referred, it took time to get connected with people – often requiring initial meetings to take place in remote bars or dark coffee shops.
At the time getting accurate information was a challenge. Social media in recruitment hadn’t really kicked off and you almost had to take people’s word for their current situation – especially their salary information.
Candidates over-inflating their current salaries in order to get massive pay rises was pretty common.
Although the internet has now made “industry standard” salaries more available (sites like glassdoor.com are great), it’s still very common for candidates to be unsure of what they should be getting paid.
Even now, I get at least 3-5 enquiries a week from people asking me what they should be getting paid – either for current or new positions.
And rightfully so – it’s my experience that unless driven by employees, salary negotiations and reviews are either limited or even worse never take place – often resulting in employees being underpaid compared to their piers.
It’s often you that has to take charge.
So how do you do it? Here’s five steps anyone can take to make sure you are getting paid fairly.
1) Do you get a raise?
Companies that value their employees ensure that their loyalty and performance is rewarded over time. The leading companies in every sector nearly always offer a pay rise on an annual basis.
The reason for it’s importance is relatively simple. If you are prepared to offer on average a 20% raise immediately for new employees to switch to your company, doesn’t it make sense to offer at least 5% to those who already serving you well?
Apart from special circumstances (start-ups, where stock is part of the equation or where a company is literally on it’s knees), the first question any candidate should ask regarding their compensation is “am I being rewarded for my continuous success?”
2) Speak to your colleagues
Money is a sensitive issue for most people but it needn’t be. We spend great deals of our lives with colleagues and often they know all about our career aspirations, work frustrations and even our intimate personal lives.
Although requiring some tact and effort, managed in the right way colleagues can be a great way to make sure you – and possibly also them – are getting paid fairly. Be up front and ask them “I just want to make sure I’m getting paid fairly – you should too. Want to compare notes?”.
The IT contractor community is notoriously good at this. Developers at both large and small companies are usually paid within a very similar salary window – almost resulting in standard “rates” across the board.
3) Look at similar job vacancies – but only the RIGHT ones
The first port of call for most people interested in seeing how much they are getting paid is usually the internet – looking at job boards to see what “similar” people are getting paid.
It’s a great tool but needs to come with warnings. It’s by no means totally accurate.
For a start, most people tend to look at the “top end” of these salary brackets – it’s true some companies do pay better than others but that doesn’t mean its the industry standard. Often these companies can even “crash and burn” – turnover may be high, they may have no benefits such as a pension and their market stability can even be poor.
Is it better to earn 20% more in a company that might be gone tomorrow?
4) Speak to a career coach, recruiter or industry specialist
Anyone involved in the hiring industry is obviously a great resource to be speaking with. Care should be taken to select only those people you trust – ideally those who have been referred highly or you have known for some time. It’s not uncommon for recruitment agents to over-inflate your worth just to make sure you enter the job market.
The specialist you speak to should also ideally be someone who has strong experience in your industry and dealing with similar level professionals. Rather than asking for a point blank number for what you are worth, it’s often better to start by asking what the various other companies in the industry are getting paid to build a more accurate picture.
5) Speak to your boss!
It’s my overwhelming experience that those people in business who get paid what they want, do so by setting out their expectations well in advance. It’s not by chance.
Whether it is a CEO or a fresh graduate, they have a plan.
Most managers usually just want to be fair and ensure that their team members are happy. Often most compensation “disappointments” occur because either the company or employee has stated their expectation too late, or even worse have no idea what each side is expecting!
Any good leader should be in sympathy with their team. Some of the best managers I know set out each year to find out exactly what their employees expectations are – from putting down a deposit on their new home to simply earning 10% more than last year.
Ideally performance plans should also align with compensation to make everything measurable.
Most employees don’t mind earning less if they fall short of pre-determined goals – as long as they were given a fair shot of doing so.
Business is more competitive than ever with everyone trying to tighten costs.
Unless you take control yourself, pay reviews may never happen properly.
Hiring managers should make sure they also use the right tools to pay all team members at least what they are worth. Otherwise staff retention will continue to fall.
Are you getting paid fairly?
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