Leland Harper waited for the right moment to ask for a raise, a bold move given that the small Michigan university where he works froze salaries before the pandemic.
But when Harper demanded a 10% pay rise in 2021, he got it — and labor market watchers say a labor shortage has given workers a real advantage in negotiations.
In fact, now is a great time to ask for a raise in many sectors, employment experts told CBC Radio, given the combination of rising inflation and labor shortages.
Inflation recently hit 5.7% – its highest point in a generation – and is driving up the cost of living at a time when employers have to compete for staff.
Over the past two years, inflation has jumped nearly 7%.
Wages have risen at the same time, but at a far from the same rate – even if there is less competition for jobs as immigration has been blocked by COVID restrictions.
“Job seekers have a lot more power than before. Companies are scrambling to find new employees and keep the ones they have,” Sarah Vermunt, founder of Careergasm, told CBC. Cost of life.
“It’s great for current employees if your employer tries to keep the people they have [because] that means now is a really good time to ask for a raise.”
Vermunt says people are often anxious or unsure about how to ask for a higher salary.
“It’s a really vulnerable thing to ask for more money,” she said. “There’s always a chance someone will say no.”
But a refusal is not always the end of negotiations, she said.
She advises people to do their research before asking for a raise — and to be patient.
When advocating for better pay, it’s important to focus on performance rather than years of service, she said.
Keep the language positive and choose the right time, such as when you accept a new position, she said.
“This organization has probably gone through a long and expensive process trying to recruit people. It’s literally the most powerful bargaining position you’ll ever have in your career,” Vermunt said.
Do your research
When Harper decided to ask the university for a 10% raise, he made sure he did his research.
The philosophy professor said he learned that other nearby universities were actively recruiting black scholars, especially those researching race and racism.
And Harper had a book on racial issues that was to be published.
“The big universities were hiring 10, 15, or 20 black scholars at a time and pumping a lot of money into them,” Harper said. “I said [to my employer] “If you want to compete, you have to do something.”
His employer initially refused his request.
But Siena Heights University in Michigan eventually offered him a special contract to reflect his worth.
‘Never seen like this’
Harper’s request was well-timed.
“I would say that in almost 20 years that I’ve worked in the recruiting industry, I’ve never seen it like this,” said Patrick Poulin, group president of recruiting firm Randstad Canada.
There is an unmet demand for employees, especially in finance, accounting, technology and engineering, he said.
And the shortage of candidates is prompting more forward-thinking companies to offer more flexibility, such as making it easier to work from home.
“We’ve seen a big shift with companies investing even more in technology to enable people to work remotely,” Poulin said.
Not all companies, especially after pandemic-related losses and supply chain challenges, are able to offer wage increases.
Be creative with benefits
But Poulin says companies should consider other benefits. For example, the employer could offer work flexibility or an opportunity on a new project.
He also advises employers to look to their current employees when considering promotions — or risk losing them.
“Always work with your internal employees first,” Poulin said. “Always.”
Tips for this raise request
Vermunt suggests these tips for going after a raise:
Set career goals.
Ask for a career progression meeting and give lots of warnings.
Do the research.
Know what you are worth in your market.
Be calm and make a well-considered request.
Present concrete numbers or evidence of your work or improvements.
Be ready for a “No”.
Consider other incentives, like projects or perks, if a raise isn’t an option.
Vermunt said it’s important to research what other people in your market are earning.
She said it’s also helpful to have concrete examples — sales results or other evidence — to illustrate how you’ve improved or grown since being hired.
This helps strengthen the argument for why you’re worth more pay.
Written by Yvette Brend. Produced by Jennifer Keene and Danielle Nerman.