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Do Your Employees Deserve a Raise?

Posted: January 28, 2020

By Tina Chang

background image of the handshake of business partners in the office. business concept
When is the right time to give someone a raise or promotion? What if they ask you for one before you think they’re ready? Here are some tips to navigate this situation.

In my experience, it’s becoming more and more common for employees to ask for a promotion or a raise long before they’re due for one. This is usually more common with:

  • Those new to the workforce, just because they’re unaware of the etiquette around getting a raise
  • Younger generations who tend to lack patience and self-awareness when it comes to asking for a raise
  • Those who had a more senior title at their previous job and automatically think they need a promotion because of it

I’ve been managing a team for about 5 years which isn’t that long, but I’ve already had my fair share of employees asking for a raise when they haven’t even been with the company for 6 months. In addition, when they ask for a promotion or a raise, they never come with a reason or any kind of documentation to support their case. More often than not, they simply say, “Can I have a raise?” and expect you to give it to them.

Here’s how I deal with this situation and ensure both my and my employees’ expectations are aligned.

Have clear role expectations

When you start hiring employees, you should have clear role expectations in place and share this with them when they first start. You should also provide an opportunity for your employees to ask questions and ensure that they fully understand what is expected of them right from the get go.

Role expectations should be measurable and outline where employees should be at the 30-, 60-, and 90-day marks, and even further along if needed. Having these role expectations will not only help you to decide whether your new employee is performing well or not, but it will also help your employee succeed at their role and understand exactly what they need to do to get that promotion.

Create a career pathing document

This is one of the best methods for both you and your employee to gauge when they are ready for a promotion or due for a raise. Create a document that outlines in detail where an employee should be in each aspect of their role. This should be separated into different skill areas, such as:

  • Communication skills
  • Writing skills
  • Technical skills

Within each of these sections, you should have points detailing what is required to be succeeding in different areas. For example:

  • Writing skills
    • Possesses excellent spelling and grammar skills. Is capable of self-editing and delivering clean copy. 
    • Uses the best language, structure, examples, and value propositions that will resonate with the user.
    • Creates copy that follows best practices for reading on the web. 
  • Time management
    • Consistently meets deadlines and is able to prioritize effectively and communicate changes in deadlines.
    • Uses time effectively and efficiently. Concentrates on the most important priorities. Can attend to a broad range of projects.
    • Works within the process but allows for deviation when necessary.
    • Consistently delivers high-quality work on time or ahead of schedule.

When an employee does ask for a raise or promotion, make it a requirement that they fill out this self evaluation first and submit it to you.

You can think about it like a more comprehensive self-evaluation that you would normally send to your employees when it’s time for your yearly reviews. This helps your employee to really think about whether they are deserving of a raise and also helps you to address any areas of improvement.

Have regular 1-on-1s

Having regular 1-on-1s with your employees allows you to be completely transparent about how they are performing on a regular basis. You should use these to address areas of improvement and to also let them know where they are performing really well. Your 1-on-1s shouldn’t just be about talking about current tasks and projects, but should be used as mini reviews to address any current performance issues and to communicate where they are doing well.

Regular 1-on-1s shouldn’t just be about talking about current tasks and projects, but should be used as mini reviews

While it’s common to have yearly reviews, it makes more sense to have these mini reviews with your employees during your weekly catch-ups as you can address issues much more efficiently. It’s not useful to anyone to wait a month, two months, or even a year before you address performance issues or reward good performance.

Be honest and pick your battles

Depending on what kind of personalities you have in your team, it can be difficult to have an honest and open conversation with your employees, especially if your opinions aren’t aligned. It’s important to stand your ground if you strongly believe someone is not deserving of a raise or promotion, and you need to have the proof to back it up. Maybe they aren’t meeting their KPIs, or the quality of their work has been an issue. Make sure you’re documenting as much as possible and providing this feedback regularly. If you do that, they shouldn’t be surprised when their request for a raise is denied, or they won’t even ask for one in the first place.

On the flip-side, you need to be honest with yourself and be fair to your employee when they are in fact ready for a promotion. In a startup environment, it can be easy to stay in penny pinching mode and neglect your employees in this sense. However, it’s important to remember that you want to reward your good employees as much as possible and give them a reason to stay with you. Great employees are hard to find, so it’s important to do everything you can to keep them!

When is the right time to give a raise or promotion?

I don’t think there’s a set rule to how long employees should be with the company in order to get a raise or promotion. As long as they are exceeding their expectations and they are genuinely a valued employee, I think it can be appropriate at any time to offer a promotion.

Whether they’ve been with the company for 1 month, 6 months or even a year, the right time depends on the employee and how they’re performing.

Tina Chang

Marketing Director, Startup San Diego