Aside from a monetary increase, employees should consider asking for other benefits, such as wellness services, heath and dental, or pension plans to boost their compensation (10,000 Hours/Getty Images)
Most Canadian firms expect to offer salary increases of around 2.6 per cent in 2019, says a 2018 survey by the Conference Board of Canada. And according to the latest Hays Canada Salary Guide, accounting and finance professionals are at the top of the list for taking home a larger paycheque this year.
Twenty-seven per cent of Canadian accounting and finance employers in the Hays report are tipped to raise salaries by more than 3 per cent. But whether you’re lucky enough to work for one of these firms or in another sector, it doesn’t hurt to know how to negotiate for a pay boost that’ll cover your needs.
Here’s how to get the money ball rolling with your employer.
1. DO THE RESEARCH
The internet offers a wealth of information. Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and PayScale provide comparables and indicate whether your current position is in high demand. In addition, the cities of Vancouver and Toronto disclose the names and salaries of their employees (including those in accounting) who earn more than $75,000 and $100,000 a year, respectively.
“In the past, employers didn’t share this information,” says Jérôme Côté, partner, Compensation and Performance at Normandin Beaudry, a firm that specializes in total rewards packages. “Salary surveys were done for internal purposes. Today, employees have access to the same data, which really levels the playing field.” And once the 2018 Pay Transparency Act comes into effect in Ontario, it will put a lot of pressure on businesses, as employers will be required to include information about compensation in every job posting.
Recruitment agencies can also help, so contact head hunters. The idea is not to threaten to quit your current job or start a bidding war, but to have comparables and be aware of opportunities.
2. MAKE YOUR CASE
Performance reviews are a chance to take stock of the past year, but don’t just see them as systematic, routine evaluations. Instead, take a proactive approach and highlight how you contributed to the organization’s results. “Employees should discuss not only their accomplishments, but also development areas to show that they have a realistic view of their performance,” says Côté.
Be specific. Accountants are well positioned to understand the impact their work has on a company’s finances. Did you reduce costs? Increase margins? Develop expertise? Or maybe your soft skills played a decisive role. List examples of the value you bring to the firm.
Changes happen quickly in a company, so make sure your objectives are in line with what you do throughout the year. Otherwise, your employers may assess you based on tasks you no longer perform, warns Côté.
3. LOOK BEYOND THE PAYCHEQUE
“Constraints may be placed on salary increases, and in some SMEs, these are very real. No matter the economic situation, they have limited means,” says Côté.
He suggests employees consider other benefits, such as wellness services, heath and dental, or pension plans. “Employees don’t always know what these perks are worth, but they should if they want to compare the employment conditions of two positions,” says Côté. This also applies to large companies who often offer costly benefits, but whose employees are unaware of the actual value.
Here’s where bonuses can make a difference: Instead of awarding salary increases, some organizations use their discretionary budgets to reward specific achievements. “The gesture is worth almost as much as the cheque. Recognition at work is a powerful motivator,” says Côté.
MORE PERKS TO CONSIDER
So what do employees want more than anything these days? Flexibility in when, where and how they work, depending on their personal and family’s needs. Also, younger workers request more personal leave, over longer periods, with some even willing to take days off without pay. [See Want a sabbatical from the daily grind? It’s all in your pitch]
Côté says people also want less conventional career paths, preferring to advance without necessarily becoming partners or shareholders, for example. This used to be a bigger challenge in accounting firms, but they’ve adapted and implemented more progressive measures to compete with private companies.
And that’s where SMEs have a competitive edge—they are more agile and open to trying new things.
“Unlike large organizations, which have many strict guidelines (for example, number of vacation weeks based on years of service), SMEs often have nothing to lose if they think outside the box,” says Côté. “It’s like a pilot project. After three months, you can do a progress review. This helps dispel certain myths, like those about remote work.”
The gender wage gap is still a real challenge. Learn how unequal access to leadership roles for women may be an underlying cause.