Posted by Robert Half on 29 October 2014
Skilled, experienced and reliable professionals are an employer's dream - the people they can rely upon, trust with key clients and build a successful organisation around. Employers fully appreciate the importance of their top talent, and the value of keeping them happy and motivated in their roles. As such, the departure of a valued employee - someone who is a proven top performer - can represent an employer's worst nightmare.
Why retention is important to you
When employees decide to leave, it creates various problems for organisations. First and foremost, it leaves a gap in the workforce, meaning the employer has to spend time and money finding a suitable replacement. Then there's the fact that organisations lose skills, knowledge and industry contacts, and there are never any guarantees about the capability of the new hire. It could take some time for the latest recruit to reach the same levels of performance and productivity as their predecessor.
This is why employers are eager to keep hold of their best performers for as long as possible. By engaging and motivating talented professionals, they can build stable, high-performing teams capable of maximising output. If people are constantly coming and going, this simply isn't possible. Organisations not only lose skills and experience, but the regular departures can undermine team morale and create a negative workplace environment - one that isn't conducive to quality and productive work. So if your employer is scared of losing you, use your negotiation tactics to see if they can provide you with the opportunities or benefits you are looking for.
The power balance
The question for every professional is the same - how valuable are you to your organisation? If you're someone who is a high-performing employee, and who adds tangible day-by-day, there's little doubt that your employer will want to keep hold of you. This, in itself, creates opportunities for you as an individual, such as:
- Career advancement: There could be scope for promotion within your current organisation, as your employer will be eager to keep you engaged.
- Higher pay: You may be able to negotiate a higher salary, since your employer will be eager to dissuade you from looking for another job.
- Attractive benefits: It might be possible to improve your other benefits, including pension contributions, annual leave allowance, childcare support and leisure perks, if your employer thinks this will increase your loyalty.
- Development opportunities: Employers are often willing to invest in training, coaching and mentorship for their workers, on the basis that staff are more likely to stay put if they feel they are developing professionally.
- Flexibility: It might be possible to customise your working arrangements to achieve a better work-life balance. Your employer may be willing to compromise on working hours, shift patterns and location in order to keep you onboard.
Typically, the more value you offer to your organisation, the more your employer will be willing to offer in return. There are limits on their generosity - every organisation has budgets to adhere to - but if you're seen as an asset to your company, you might be able to secure a better deal.
Where do you stand?
Before you think about trying out your negotiation tactics to improve your terms of employment, you need to asses your standing within the organisation. Are you somebody the company relies upon - a highly-valued member of staff? Or alternatively, given your status and level of contribution, could you be easily replaced? If you fit into the latter category, don't expect your employer to push the boat out to keep you onboard.
The conversations you have with your boss, both formally - during periodic review sessions - and informally - around the office - should give some indication as to how you are perceived. There are also clues in the types of tasks you are given - are you working with the top clients on the most valuable accounts, or are you the go-to tea maker for the rest of your colleagues.
If you've been given additional responsibilities, or invited to participate and management training, it is likely because you've been identified someone with potential to advance through the ranks. A key element of your organisation's succession plan is developing future leaders, and if you're involved in this these types of sessions, it's because your employer sees your value and potential.
The art of negotiation
As a professional, you have every right to secure the best possible deal in return for the work you do for your organisation. If your employer is paying you below the market rate, for someone with your level of expertise, they cannot be surprised if you start looking for a new role elsewhere. Consulting the Robert Half Salary Guides should give you an indication of where you stand - whether you are earning the going rate for someone in your position, are being underpaid or already generously rewarded for your contribution.
Benchmarking your existing salary is a negotiation tactic that puts you in an informed position. If you are earning a below-average salary, there is scope to improve your contract by moving to another organisation. Your employer will be aware of this reality, and may take proactive steps to secure your long term loyalty - providing you have the confidence to ask for a raise. If they have no flexibility to move on pay, it might be a sign that you've outgrown your current organisation anyway.
When negotiating a pay rise, you need to know your market value, but also decide what you are willing to accept from your employer. The chances are they will offer less than you hope for - it's your job to provide evidence of your contribution in order to coax out a higher offer. After all, if your employer has shown a willingness to improve your contract, it's because they don't want you to leave.
Still, it's important deliver a simple, effective pitch - one that consists of realistic salary requests. You need to be polite - asking for an improvement rather than demanding one - and also patient as you wait for your employer's response. It's unlikely that your boss will be able to agree to an improved contract on the spot.
Employee retention helps firms deliver results, while keeping costs down. So as a valued member of the team, your employer will want to keep hold of you for as long as possible. The fear you might leave can play into your hands, as you look to progress your career and secure the best possible deal on pay and benefits. For those who as proactive and have strong negotiation tactics, there are opportunities for promotions and pay rises ahead.