Advancing

To Get a Raise, Get Strategic

get a raise

Waiting patiently to get a raise was a smart survival tactic in the recession. But if you’re a high-performer, holding off any longer doesn’t make sense.

Businesses are increasingly focused on growth—and they can’t achieve that goal without great people.

Consider this:

* Nearly half of small business owners plan to give raises in the coming year, according to the Spark Small Business Barometer from Capital One, released in November.

* According to the consultancy Mercer’s 2014/2015 US Compensation Planning Survey, 98% of employers gave employees raises in 2014. And in 2015, the average bump in base pay at midsize and large employers is expected to be 3.0%, inching up from 2.9% in 2014.

So how to do you make the trends work in your favor? It pays to be strategic.

Maximize your value. For top performers—an elite group that makes up 8% of the workforce—2015 raises should average 4.8%, Mercer estimates. And for the 28% of workers who rank just below them in performance, the average should be 3.8%.

performance review
4 Steps to Get Through a Performance Review

If you wait until your performance review to find out how you have been evaluated, you may miss out on chances to break into these top rungs and get the biggest raise in your office. Make sure you get feedback on how you are meeting key performance indicators for your job at least every quarter from your supervisor—and ideally more often.

Know how your industry is performing. If your industry is in growth mode, then holding onto highly poachable talent will be more important to your bosses. That means it will be easier to persuade your bosses to pay you more.

The industries with the highest average raises projected for 2015 in the Mercer survey are energy (3.5%) and transportation equipment (3.1%). A bunch of industries are hovering above the industry-wide average at 3%: High tech, insurance, life sciences, mining and metals, and retail and wholesale.

Consider plan B. There are some industries where it will, alas, be tougher to match the average 3% raise in 2015. Financial services and manufacturing should hit 2.9%, Mercer found. And firms providing services that are not financial or make consumer goods will see the lowest average raises (2.8%). If you are in one of these slower-growing fields, finding a job at a company in a faster-growing industry that can use your services may be smarter than staying put. Many employers are hiring now, for the first time in years. Don’t waste this chance to maximize your earning power.

About the Author

Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in writing about entrepreneurship and careers. She was a senior editor for Fortune Small Business magazine, and her work has appeared in Fortune, Money, Forbes.com, Inc. and Crain's New York Business, among others.