Rarely does a week go by without one of my executive coaching clients or prospective clients reaching out to me with reservations about his/her compensation level. Executives are, understandably, keen to ensure that their compensation is commensurate with their skills, talents, and experiences.
In order to succeed at the highest level, it’s crucial that you refuse to settle for anything less than you are worth. Armed with a strong sense of conviction and much preparation, you can ensure that your compensation is reflective of your worth. As Bob Marley reminds us, “Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don't give up the fight.”
1. Leverage market comparables
When discussing your salary, it’s most effective to embark on the discussion with a deep understanding of market comparables. In many ways, the job market is akin to the housing market. Your job is worth what the market will yield. You can’t afford to rely on your employer to determine a fair salary rate. If you come to the discussion primed with a solid understanding of industry benchmarks, your argument will be more cogent and you’ll be better able to justify your desired salary. It’s critically important that you draw data from reliable, established sources and accumulate data related to the job you’re actually doing or are slated to do. Mark Szypko, managing director for Salary.com, explains, “If you’re an intermediate accountant, look at salary for intermediate accountants -- not senior accountants and not CFOs…Use the data for the job you’re actually doing, not the work you’d like to be doing or think you should be doing.”
Your job is worth what the market will yield. You can’t afford to rely on your employer to determine a fair salary rate.
2. Don’t overlook perks
When negotiating compensation, many executives are laser-focused on salary levels and overlook the importance of perks and other benefits. They do so at their peril. According to a report released by Northwestern Mutual, salary typically accounts for only 70% of an employee’s total compensation. The remaining 30% is comprised of perks and other benefits. Perks and benefits can quickly accumulate. A generous benefits package can easily overshadow the value of a $20,000 monetary bonus.
One of the most crucial benefits to consider is health coverage. According to research by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 40% of employees would prefer to forgo an increase in pay in order to maintain their health coverage. It’s also important to consider the employer-sponsored retirement plan. Is there a one-to-one match, for example? Other important considerations include wellness benefits (an on-site gym, for example), paid time off (PTO), professional development perks (graduate education assistance, for example), and commuting benefits (gas or parking reimbursements, for example).
Just because specific benefits and perks haven’t been offered in the past, doesn’t mean they are off the table for discussion and negotiation. Alyssa Gelbard, the founder of career consultancy Resume Strategists, explains, “if the company’s medical plan doesn’t offer gym reimbursement, ask for it...A healthy employee is less of a risk for the company financially, so it could make sense for them [to offer the benefit] in the long run.”
3. Ensure equal pay
Far too often, employees (especially females and minorities) aren’t aggressive enough in negotiating their compensation packages. Research by Ellevest revealed that 83% of women believe that men are often paid more than their female counterparts for the same work. 61% of men agree. It’s essential that you fight for equal pay.
The process of securing equal pay can be rife with difficulties. Research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that 60% of private-sector employees are either prohibited from or are strongly discouraged from discussing pay with their coworkers. To the extent possible, gather compensation data from your coworkers, especially those who perform similar work in order to assess if you are being underpaid.
Without a doubt, the most effective tactic entailed in securing equal pay is strong negotiation skills. Lydia Frank, senior editorial and marketing director at Payscale, explains, “Men are negotiating four times more often than women—and they typically ask for 30% more…Women typically approach their work as, ‘Keep your head down, work hard, do a good job and someone will reward you.’ But that’s generally not the case. You are more aware of what you’re doing than your boss, and it’s your personal responsibility to reinforce that and message that.”
Dale Carnegie once said, "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." As I tell my executive coaching clients, it’s easy to let fear stand in your way of securing a compensation package that is reflective of your worth and value. As a hard-working executive, you deserve to be compensated appropriately. Hold your head up, do your research and due diligence, and negotiate your way to the top. Recall Mark Twain’s wise words, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner
Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at