Asking for a raise can seem incredibly daunting, especially if it’s the first time you’re doing so. efore you can prepare yourself to ask for an hourly raise, you need to identify why you want a raise. If it’s just because you want or need more money, you’re better off trying to find a higher paying job. If that’s not the case, and you’re just beginning to think about asking for a raise, take some time to review the reasons why you might be ready for a raise. Once you’re sure a raise is due, follow these steps to craft a successful case for why it’s time for an hourly raise.
1. Do your homework to prove you’re worth the raise.
After establishing that you are indeed ready for a raise, there are two different methods you can follow to obtain data on why you’re worth an hourly raise (and some of the reasons why you need a raise directly correlate to this type of research, so you can potentially feed two birds with one scone here by identifying if you are ready for a raise).
The first type of research you can explore is market research. You might be (painfully) aware that prices rise over time, which is a principle known as inflation. The price of your labor is no exception to inflation! However, sometimes your employer does not increase your hourly rate to keep up with inflation, and you wind up being paid much less than the market value for your skillset, especially if you’ve been with your company for a while. You should determine if your hourly rate is on par with the current market rate for your line of work, and use the data you find to proved you’re worth the raise.
One way to find compensation data is by using a tool like Glassdoor. Glassdoor allows you to access anonymous, employee-reported data about compensation at various companies. Another way to obtain data about your industry and role is to do your own original research (which can be potentially more powerful, because all of the figures are accurate!). To do this, try polling your peers. Ask family and friends in a similar line of work to give you a range for their hourly rate, or reach out on Facebook or LinkedIn to survey a wider audience. Make sure to only use data that is relevant to you, such as a similar role or tenure at another company (i.e. don’t bother asking a family member who has 10 more years of experience how much they make because it’s not applicable to your career). Additionally, when asking others about their pay rate, make sure to maintain a strict level of confidence and privacy to assure their anonymity when reporting the data, especially if they have asked you to.
No matter how you quantify your market research, you need to do so in a way that clearly communicates you are not being paid an accurate market rate, not that you want more money.
The second type of research you can do to prove you’re worth an hourly raise is to quantify your accomplishments. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to walk up to your boss and say, “Hey, I’ve been doing really great work here for the past three years. Will you raise my hourly rate?” To be persuasive, you need to show on paper the type of work you’ve done and how it’s impacted your employer for the better (and probably their bottom line).
Take the time to think through your duties and responsibilities at work and think about the following questions.
- Does your job directly impact your company’s bottom line? If you walked away today, would your company lose money?
- Are there any key processes or functions you maintain (such as managing all scheduling for an executive team)? If you left, would someone with other important responsibilities have to work longer hours to cover the processes you manage?
- Do you have significantly more responsibility (such as managing other employees or working on bigger projects) now than you did when you started (and when your pay was originally decided?
- Are you solving more complex problems now than when your pay was decided?
- Have you made any significant accomplishments recently (such as completed a large project)?
Write down your answers to these questions as you go through them, and use as many numbers and action words as you can. You can imagine this as an exercise in updating your resume — you want to clearly communicate, with data, how much critical work you have done for your employer. And why not actually update your resume with this information while you’re at it?
Even though it might seem tedious, doing your homework now will pay off later as an improved chance of an hourly raise. We’ll be coming back to this data in the last step, so stash it somewhere that’s easily accessible for now.
2. Determine a realistic and appropriate raise amount.
When asking for an hourly raise, it’s critical to understand what a realistic and appropriate raise amount actually is. If you’ve been at your job for a few years without a raise, it’s generally suggested that a 10% raise is appropriate. Utilize your market research you did in step 1 to determine if 10% is enough for your specific case, or if you actually need more or less (based on what peers in similar roles and industries are currently making). If your research suggests you need a large raise (maybe around 15%-20%), it’s helpful to note that bigger raises are more common when switching employers than staying at the same company.
Another scenario to be aware of as an hourly employee is the potential to move to a salaried position. When you become a salaried employee, you can benefits such as health coverage, PTO, or other company perks. But you might also lose an unrecognized benefit — the ability to work overtime for a higher wage. If you’re in a position where your company is either asking to move you to a salaried role or you anticipate moving to a salaried role in the future, you might want to calculate how much of a raise you would need to maintain your current pay. Perhaps you work in retail and make overtime during the holidays and you’re being asked to become a salaried employee. However, you’re still going to be expected to work 60ish hours a week during the holidays. If you take the new proposed salaried wage and divide it by the number of hours you actually anticipate working, you’ll see if the “real” proposed pay rate. When determining a realistic hourly raise amount, take these factors into consideration.
Carefully review your data, tenure at your company, and accomplishments to determine a realistic and appropriate hourly raise.
3. Establish the right time for the company and manager to ask for a pay increase.
There’s a right place and right time for most things, and asking for an hourly raise is no exception. You can’t walk into work tomorrow and ask for a pay increase just because you can. You should instead make allowances for the health of your company, the workload and personal load of your manager, and the seasonality of your industry when picking the most opportune occasion to present your case (not plead it, as we’ll discuss in the fifth step).
Start by assessing the financial stability of your company. Has the company just met its quarterly revenue goals, or did it fall short a hefty amount? Did it just close an invaluable deal or launch a new product? Or did it just lay off 100 employees last week? If your company is thriving, it’s a better time to ask for a raise. However, if your company is instead struggling, you might find your ask for a raise completely shut down, no matter the type of employee you are or the work you are producing.
Next, evaluate your manager’s work and personal condition. So many little things affect our mood, whether it’s what we ate (or didn’t eat) for breakfast that morning, how we slept, what’s happening in our personal lives, or a myriad of other factors. Your boss might be incredible, but they’re still human, and something as silly as the rush hour traffic that made her 30 minutes late to an important meeting might very well sabotage your appropriate ask for a raise.
Finally, analyze the seasonality of your industry. Perhaps you work in retail, and the holiday season is the busiest time of year. Maybe your employer can’t afford to have you leave during this critical time, and is therefore more willing to fulfill your request for an hourly raise. On the contrary, you might know the current season is the slowest time of the year for your company, and should consider postponing your ask for a raise because your employer isn’t bringing in as much revenue and doesn’t need to employ as many workers
After confirming it is actually a good time to ask for raise, set a date and time to work towards. If it’s not the most effective time to ask for raise right now, complete steps 1-4 anyway and come back to step 5 when you’re more sure your ask will convert to the desired raise.
4. Practice your pitch for why you deserve an hourly raise.
Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make permanent. Once you’ve determined when you’re going to ask for your hourly raise, spend time crafting your pitch. The first time you run through your speech should not be when you’re in front of your boss! Here are some tips to consider when preparing.
- Use assertive language and don’t sound apologetic. You’ve done the work in step 1 to prove why it’s time for raise so own it!
- Make it clear what you want: you want an hourly raise. Don’t let your manager leave the meeting confused about why you set up time with her.
- Sound excited about your job and your opportunities there. If you don’t, there’s a chance your request could come across as an ultimatum and alienate your boss. The last thing the company wants is to feel as if you’re holding it hostage.
- Decide if you want to be upfront about the specific hourly amount you’ve already determined or whether you’ll see what they offer you first.
- Be aware of your body language. Practice making eye contact and sitting or standing straight without looking rigid.
- Identify concise talking points from the research done in step 1. You don’t need a formal script, but have a direction you want to take.
Use the guidelines above to construct a strong verbal and non-verbal argument when asking for an hourly raise.
5. Actually ask at the predetermined right time.
After you’ve identified it’s a productive time to ask for an hourly raise, gauge your manager’s schedule to identify the best day of the week to ask. Avoid scheduling a meeting for first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Additionally, think about letting your boss know ahead of time what you want to talk about so she isn’t caught off guard and you don’t walk away with the “I’ll have to get back to you about this” response.
As you ask, expect questions to arise. Stay calm and collected, and if there’s a question you can’t answer, it’s okay to tell your manager you’ll get back to them or that you don’t know.
Be prepared to negotiate! Your company wants a bargain as much as you do when shopping at the grocery store. If you decided in step 4 to be upfront with your manager about the dollar amount you’re looking for, consider suggesting a higher number than you really want (though you’d be thrilled if they gave it to you), which gives you cushion if your manager negotiates down.
6. Establish a future raise game-plan.
You’ve taken the plunge to actually ask for an hourly raise, but your manager replies “not now”. In this scenario, the next step in successfully asking for an hourly raise is to establish a future raise game-plan.
Begin by pinpointing why your manager is telling you now is not a good time for a raise. If it’s due to time-based reason, such as industry influences or budgeting, suggest a probationary period until the aforementioned time-based reasons are no longer relevant. If your company resets its budget in two months, ask if you can participate in a probationary period for the next 60 days, with a raise given at the end.
If the reason is instead performance-based rather than time-based, such as the need to improve your collaboration skills, set a probationary period with a specific, measurable goal. Work with your manager to choose a relevant goal, and then ask her for confirmation that you can have a raise once the goal is achieved.
Just because your manager informs you it’s not possible to have an hourly raise right now doesn’t mean you can’t get one soon, so proactively create a future raise game-plan.
7. If your request is denied, negotiate a win for yourself.
If your company is truly not in a position to provide an hourly raise, both right now and in the future, negotiate a win for yourself anyway. Are there other benefits that would improve your position? Some examples could include paid vacation time (or more vacation time), work from home days, health care coverage, or paid job or skills training. Select a personally meaningful benefit and ask for it after proving why you’re worth more than your compensation.
8. Be prepared to walk away empty-handed.
There are unfortunate scenarios where both step 6 and step 7 don’t work. If you find yourself in this spot, think through the following questions to resolve the best course of action moving forward.
- How badly do you need this job? Are you the sole provider for yourself or your family? Do you have major expenses coming up?
- Is your skillset in demand in the general job market?
- Do you have another job offer to take?
As highlighted in step 4, be cautious of using another, higher-paying job offer as leverage. If your employer feels you only want to stay at your job if they’ll pay up, they might be less likely to invest in you in the future. Opportunities such as promotions, job training or career development, or the chance to work on an important project might not be yours anymore.
If worst comes to worst when asking for an hourly raise, be prepared to walk away empty-handed.
9. Thank your manager and leave them equipped to vouch for you.
No matter the outcome of asking your manager for an hourly raise, thank them for their time and consideration. Express your appreciation for your job and the opportunities it has afforded you to this point. Then, leave your manager with materials to enable them to vouch for you. Create a one-page document highlighting the main takeaways from your research in step 1. Use data visualizations, such as charts, to drive your home your points. If your boss does need to ask for approval from higher management to give you a raise, it will be much easier to do so with the information already provided in a digestible way.
If you’ve worked together to build a future raise plan, write that up in addition and give a copy to your manager. Let her know you’re serious by formalizing the commitment you made to each other in writing. Leave your boss feeling grateful for you as an employee, and willing to go to bat for your raise in the future.
Asking for an hourly raise doesn’t need to be complex. Use these steps as a guideline to successfully receiving an hourly raise, and feel free to add your own as your specific needs require.
Climb on, FinBase.