People First HR Services

Want a raise? Do the research

Colleen Coates

The answer to the question of “How much are you worth?” can often elude both employees and employers. Ask these two groups the same question and you’ll probably receive two very different answers.

The truth is salaries come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re negotiating a starting salary or looking for a raise, you should know how much you’re really worth and understand how your organization determines the amount you are paid. Your colleague’s paycheque may be larger or smaller than yours, regardless of how long you have been working for the organization or how many bills you have.

Although all employees are an important part of an organization, not all positions and functions are created equal.

While an employee is thinking about their worth or “value” to their organization (the skills, knowledge, and personal attributes they bring to the job), most employers are considering the worth of the job based on factors such as skills, knowledge, effort, responsibilities and working conditions.

Job worth is the value that your organization places on each position (not the person). Simply put, it is the “price” of your job.

How does an organization determine the value of your job? Many structured companies go through a process called job evaluation to design a pay structure that is fair and reasonable for their employees. A pay structure is simply a guide that shows the ranges of salaries for different levels of positions in the organization. It also guides pay increases and starting salaries. How you progress through the salary range will depend on what the organization values. For instance, some companies place more value on length of service while others look at performance, or a combination of the two. There are also different job evaluation methods, but essentially, most consider the value of each position compared to other positions within the organization as well as the market rate of pay for each position.

What does market rate really mean? The market rate for a position is typically considered the median (halfway point) of all salaries for that position in the market in which the employer competes for talent, not just competitors for your organization’s product or service.

How does an organization determine what the market rate is for each position? Many organizations learn the hard way by relying on hearsay or basing market rate solely on unreliable Internet sources. There are reliable published surveys available, but few contain good local information. Organizations should look closely at the surveys they use to ensure there is comprehensive pay information from local companies.

Why is it important for an organization to know the market rate for their positions? Organizations must ensure they have a competitive compensation package in order to attract and retain key talent, and part of that package is base salary. Employers need to be able to confidently respond to employee inquiries about their pay. In addition, employees have access to many Internet sources or can collect market salary data information from their professional association. Employers should have trusty data in hand to support employees’ questions on market rates for their position. Then they need to take time to educate their employees about the published, reputable resources used to determine market rates and why they are used as opposed to free information over the Internet.

If you are wishing for a higher salary, you first need to ask yourself:

— How much is my job worth to my organization?

— What is the market rate for my job?

— Where does my salary fall within the salary range for my position?

— Can my organization afford an increase in my salary?

— Am I doing excellent work?

Wishing for a higher salary is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of us want to make more money to afford the good, comfortable life we deserve. Is asking for a pay raise justifiable? Perhaps. But before you go in to the boss’s office, be sure to prove your worth by adding value and improving your contribution to your organization. In other words, increase your worth by being worth it.

—- With reporting by Barbara Chabai

Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 16, 2011 H1