So I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want
January 14, 2012 10:22 PM   Subscribe

A good source of salary data for presentation at my upcoming performance review?

I work for a European firm in the technology sector, based in the U.S. I've been a programmer analyst/business analyst for this firm for about 2 years (this upcoming review being of my second year). I didn't get a raise my first year - it was 'against company policy'. The bonus I was promised in fixed terms on signing was prorated for my length of employment with the company, and there's been no mention of performance bonus this year, so I'm not expecting one. I could've fought harder on these issues, but I wasn't prepared with data about what those in roles similar to mine, and basically adopted a 'let it go the first year' policy, planning to take a harder stance this year.

I am a top performer and have had nothing but glowing review thus far, and am expecting the same this year (had preliminary convo with my direct superior where he indicated he was very pleased with my work and excited for the future of our collaboration).

This year, I plan to be adamant regarding the salary increase. I've recruited a bit this year and know that other firms were prepared to offer me 30% more in salary, but my company provides excellent benefits (health, dental, generous vacation) that other firms have trouble matching, and these benefits are very important to me. Nonetheless, I would like to push for greater salary/title.

I'd also like to up my title a bit. The difficulty there is that others in my group who do my same job have maintained the same title (i.e., there is no Business/Programmer Analyst II, we're a small firm with a more 'socialist', everybody's equal, culture). I am the only one in my role working outside Europe. How should I handle this discussion?

So, are there any websites/other resources that can provide this data, giving me meaningful info that my superiors will trust? What percent should I ask for (or should I base that off what the salary report tells me others are asking)? Any good negotiation strategies you can suggest me?

Thank you!
posted by jacobdezoet to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the US Government agency tracking employment data. They have salary information by occupation and by geographical area; for instance, workers in SOC 15-1133 (Software Developers, Systems Software) have a median annual wage of $94,180, but in Silicon Valley, the median annual wage is $123,280.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:45 PM on January 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Reference to external data is rarely as helpful as you think. Unless you are genuinely indispensable 'look what Widgets Inc' would pay me is likely to be met with 'So go work for them.'

Your starting point is that you want the rate of inflation over the period in question. Anything over that you will need to objectively justify with reference to your work. Your positive evaluations will be a boon here.

You need to be a bit more careful with your terminology. 'Prorated' is not a word; if you use it, you will look foolish and hurt your chances. Try something like 'calculated on pro rata basis between period x and y.'.

Also socialism != everyone is equal. If your manager is European and you come out with that he will think that you're ignorant.
posted by dmt at 12:02 AM on January 15, 2012

A general answer first. Every company culture is different, but I'm going to agree with dmt that external data isn't usually that helpful. I've managed developers at several U.S. based companies and they all took the same approach, which was to use salary bands for each role (a minimum salary, a mid-point, and a maximum) and to try to keep everyone in that role inside the band. The band is baselined against industry averages and adjusted for geography. If the salaries are lagging the local market, the HR function and your manager are probably aware of that. The HR people are also baselining the benefits package, so they are also aware they are doing better than most. So walking into a performance evaluation and saying, "top companies here are paying 30% more" might get you a "yes, we know" reaction.

Now some specifics for your situation.
  • You mentioned that your company is small. The banding approach I described above is going to exist and be more formalized in larger companies. If your company is still handling this in an ad-hoc way, I like your chances better to be able to negotiate something. You might listen for words like "band", "mid-point", "range", or just ask your supervisor.
  • If they aren't using banding, I would look for external data. It can't hurt.
  • If they are using banding, then the HR people will have better data than you will be able to find off of a public website. You'll want to try and figure out how you are getting paid relative to the other employees in your role (e.g. did they lowball your starting salary for some reason).
  • You mention that you are the only one in your role outside of Europe. Are all of the other developers based in the same place in Europe? Assuming the salaries are baselined for Europe, you might successfully make the argument that the cost of living is higher in your market and that you should be treated as a one-off situation.
  • Regarding job title, I would make the same "I'm not in Europe" argument for a title change to match the local norms. As long as they can figure out how to code you into the payroll system, they won't care what is on your business card and this will be an easy "give". I would probably tackle this after the money discussion, so this doesn't become a bone they throw you in lieu of a substantial increase.
  • I don't have a suggestion on what to ask for, but can tell you that 30% is a really big bump. I'm not saying it can't happen, but another typical HR control is that your manager will only have authority to make an adjustment up to x% without getting extra approvals, where x% is probably going to be a single digit number or bringing you up to the "max" if they are using banding.
  • Start the negotiation now. You should telegraph in advance that you are looking for a big adjustment. Sure, it gives your manager time to prepare counter arguments, but it isn't like you are negotiating to buy a car where you'll never see the seller again. You've got to work with these people, so if you surprise your boss with a big ask in your review, he will just be annoyed.
  • You mentioned that you "recruited" a bit this year. Be careful about how you frame this (or whether you mention this at all). What you don't want is for your boss to write you off as a flight risk who is going to leave anyway at the first offer of a higher salary.
Good luck with the performance review.
posted by kovacs at 5:44 AM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think kovacs' points are good.

The government's salary data is useful for figuring out where your compensation falls along the distribution of salaries for your particular job ("Am I paid more or less than the median?"), etc., but unless you're some kind of rock star, you shouldn't use it as a bargaining chip. Starting a negotiation with "The median salary is X, so I want a salary that is two standard deviations higher than X" will not get you anywhere.

posted by dfriedman at 8:16 AM on January 15, 2012

Google for salary surveys for your particular niche of IT. e.g., there's an annual salary survey for information architects/user experience folks that breaks down things like years of experience, geographic location, benefits, perks, and work duties in addition to salary paid.

If there's an industry association that represents any part of what you do (like the IIBA), see if they have salary surveys. These are often much more detailed than what the BLS offers for particular flavors of IT.

Also, no matter what a salary survey or other stat says, negotiating for a pay raise is more about your negotiation skills--including a willingness to quit or show proof of a better offer--than it about what other people are making elsewhere.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:59 AM on January 15, 2012

I don't know what you have available for libraries; this is the kind of data that a good reference librarian could really help with. Don't just show your value to other companies, but show your value to your company - projects completed, sales due to prompt completion, using whatever metrics the company uses, or industry-standard metrics.

Be very positive about the company and your commitment to it, and your desire to continue to help the company grow. It may also help to consider alternate compensation; conferences, added vacation time, etc., in case they are really resistant to cash.
posted by theora55 at 1:19 PM on January 15, 2012

Thank you, everyone. I have to admit, I didn't use any external data. I got what I was looking for, though, and I actually didn't have to negotiate for it :) Life smiled upon me. Appreciate your thoughtful responses.
posted by jacobdezoet at 11:24 AM on January 24, 2012

Good for you - glad you got a decent bump!
posted by dmt at 1:55 PM on March 14, 2012

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