Expert Insights

Pay rises in a post Covid world

Requests for pay rises are on the increase, and whether you are the manager/remco member or employee, the following information may prove useful.

I am pretty certain that there have been far fewer conversations about pay rises over the past year than would usually take place. However, as offices start to re-open and employees contemplate their work life balance in a post covid world, those who have been putting off their request may now be positioning themselves to ask the question. 

So, after putting in the hours, managing the extra workload and keeping projects on track during a period of major change, you are now ready to knock on your boss’s door and ask for the pay rise you so rightly deserve.

What happens next will depend both on how you view yourself and how successfully you have managed to communicate your value to your manager.

Paving the way for a pay rise

By the time someone has summoned the courage to ask for a pay rise, the likelihood is that there is already some feeling of being overworked and undervalued, and that some other team members do not work as hard.. 

For a senior manager, it is important to recognise that to ask for more money the employee may already have feelings of resentment and exhaustion.

For employees, it is always worth doing some preparation before raising the subject of pay/remuneration with your boss. There is a correlation between low confidence and low pay and this is generally because those who toil silently go unnoticed.  On the other hand, those who are overtly proud of their achievements and draw attention to them, tend to mop up any promotions and/or the better pay rises that are handed out.  

Bragging doesn’t come naturally to most of us and nor should it be required in terms of reward for effort and achievement. Pointing out relevant achievements, however, is perfectly acceptable and indeed desirable. Refer to these successes on a regular basis so that others recognise your part in those processes that have moved the business forward. It may be as simple as telling people you were proud to be part of the team that managed a particular project and it never does any harm to talk to colleagues about things that ‘we’ achieved together.

Surviving rejection

Sometimes, no matter how well you have prepared, your request will be denied. It may simply be due to bad timing or external factors such as cost-cutting or an impending disposal process. However, you will also have to face the possibility that your boss or remco simply does not see that what you did through the pandemic was any more than what was expected of you.

If you are absolutely certain that you have assessed your own value honestly, the failure to consider your request for more pay seriously could be a signal to move on. Sometimes you will never change the perceptions of those you have worked with for some time. Perhaps they no longer value the skills that you bring or maybe they are considering structural changes but have not communicated them as yet.

Rejection may herald an opportunity to maximise your career potential elsewhere. However,  before you do that, be prepared to update your CV and identify any areas that might need improving; study job adverts to see what skills and specifications are in demand. Finding ways to fill any skill gaps whilst you are working in your current role could help you in the future. For example, think about an operational restructure or enterprise wide digitisation programme that will give you the relevant experience to apply for something that is both better suited to your career aspirations and better paid.

Who knows, this creativity and productivity may actually be recognised by your boss when you hand over your resignation letter and in turn may be met by a counter offer to stay with a new remit and increased remuneration.

A final note for employers

If an employee approaches you for a pay rise and you are unable to meet their request, for whatever reason, ask yourself whether you are prepared to lose this person. 

It takes a lot of courage to ask for more money and the embarrassment of rejection can make their role untenable. If you value them but do not think they are quite ready for a promotion or rise, explain that and consider adopting a creative approach. Perhaps set meaningful and relevant targets to work towards for future rewards or offer an exciting new role within the business, or greater autonomy. Dig a little deeper to find out whether they are unhappy about anything else and consider whether or not there is anything you can do to make things easier.

Requests for either a pay rise or more flexible working or slightly reduced hours for the same salary will be very commonplace over the next 12 months, being prepared for the conversation or even prompting the conversation with valued employees can make the difference between keeping or losing a valued member of your team. 

Over the last 20 years I have found that sometimes a request for more pay is not actually about the money at all, or at least it is not the main driver!.

Richard Port

is the principal solicitor at Boardside who are a specialist Employment Law practice providing legal representation to organisations and individuals throughout the UK. Boardside and Williams Bain often work together to support individual executives throughout their career.

Williams Bain

Williams Bain is a specialist supplier of Executive Interim Managers, Independent Consultants and Executive level Permanent Hires. Our discreet professional service supports the leaders of large PLC’s, Privately owned businesses, Large Family owned businesses, Equity partnerships, Private Equity backed businesses, Entrepreneurs, Investors and Lenders.