Employees: How to navigate the salary review

[ It's that time of the year! ]
by Anna Chipperfield Published

It is that time of year, your employer is busy doing budgets and planning for the next 12 months. Hopefully, you will participate in a discussion where you will talk about how things have been going and get a chance to discuss salary. For an employee, this is one of those times where anxiety rises and it's all a bit overwhelming. Did I achieve everything my boss needed me to do; Will I get more money; How do I negotiate the dollars?

I have been working in a management role for many years now with the responsibility of facilitating and managing the performance review and salary review process. Over the years, I have been on both sides as the employee negotiating salary and as the manager negotiating with the employee. In my experience, a good employer does their homework, they review the market and they measure people's performance so that the discussion is both authentic and realistic.

An informed employee understands their worth, knows where they sit in relation to their performance and have a realistic expectation based on their role and business they work in. A win-win is the best outcome when it comes to salaries.

Every business will look at this review in their own unique way and unfortunately for the employee, there are many ways your employer may skin the cat!

There are things you can do to be prepared for a salary discussion. Below are a few insights and suggestion when it comes to preparing for this conversation;


Do you have measures or KPI's that were set for you in the previous year? Did you achieve them? Did you exceed them? If neither is true for you, have you reviewed and understood what you did and didn’t achieve and what were the reasons behind the result? Are you prepared to talk to this?

Missing KPI's doesn’t always mean 'no salary increase' but as an employee it's really up to you to state your case as to why you should receive an increase when you haven’t achieved the expectations of your role. If the KPI's were missed and they were set out clearly, then the why is really important. There could be genuine reasons why you missed your KPI's. Be ready to discuss this.


Understand the value of your role and your contribution. If your role is connected to targets and you are achieving these targets, this might be easy to ascertain. If not, do you understand your contribution to the business, where you do add the value? Be ready to talk about what you have achieved since your last salary discussion? Have you taken on more tasks; Did you save them money, Did you bring in a new client, Did you improve a process that means efficiencies were gained, Did you take on more responsibility? Be prepared to talk to your achievements. Sometimes employers don’t always see all the great stuff that people do yet the good ones will most certainly acknowledge this.


If you plan to go to your salary review with a figure in mind, do your homework and know your $ worth in your industry or in a similar role. Make sure you get your facts straight.

If you don’t know what your role is worth or even know where to start, you could look to external guides. These may be in the form of an industry salary guide, or perhaps a job currently being advertised that looks similar to yours?

If you do look to either of these things, do so, with some caution and some perspective, for the following reasons;

Salary guides are often used in the context of 'moving jobs' and in some industries, premiums are paid to attract candidates, this can sometimes be called a 'moving premium'. A moving premium may mean that the candidate won't receive another increase for quite some time. So be mindful of this if you are going to use a salary guide to understand your 'value' in your current role and the industry.

Salary guides are useful when a role is very easily defined. Not so great if your role is out of the box or has been tailored to your strengths or opportunities along the way. Salary guides are also useful to get a feel for whether you are in the ballpark. However, they don’t provide details around the roles - so it is assumed that an 'accountant with 2-years experience' at one company, does exactly the same role at another company and this is often not the case.

Always weigh up your salary with other things you like about where you work. For example; do you have flexible arrangements, do you have a lot of autonomy and therefore freedom, are the incentives and benefits a factor? Would you get this stuff elsewhere?

If your employer is unable to give you a salary increase, there may be genuine reasons for this? Ask them to share their reasons. Then could you suggest other alternatives? Things like, training and development, an extra leave day, flexible arrangements, a bonus if you exceed your next set of KPI's or goals? Again, the cat can be skinned in many ways.

If you have done your research and you feel that you deserve an increase, be reasonable with your numbers. If you don’t have the evidence or the performance to back up your requested increase, it's very hard for your employer to justify it. Incremental increases are also easier to stomach, so be fair. If you go for the jugular, you might get a shock. If you hold your employer to ransom, and they say no, are you prepared to follow through? In saying that, if you have your research in place, you know your worth and you have a great track record - then ask for it.

This is also a good time of year to reflect on your job and the business you work for? Do you enjoy working with the people you currently work with? Is your boss a great person who genuinely cares about you and gives you the opportunity to grow and develop. Are you new to the business and still proving yourself? Weigh all this up when discussing your salary. Be willing to negotiate if you love the place where you work.

The reality is, you may or may not get what you expected - so will you be happy anyway? If you are unhappy with your environment, more money won't fix this for long. Perhaps a discussion with your boss about your role, your future, some training is what you need. See this as an opportunity to share your thoughts and ask questions.

If you are happy with your environment and the opportunities you are looking for are there, salary isn't always a key driver but it's always important to understand the value you bring and that you are fairly paid for the role that you do.

Anna Chipperfield
read more by Anna Chipperfield

Anna has a long-standing career in operations, people management, and business strategy. Covering industries such as construction, retail and professional services both in Australia and Internationally.

At businessDEPOT, Anna’s focus is on people and culture.

With a great passion for creating and maintaining a working environment where people can focus on their strengths, continue to develop and grow while bringing their authentic selves to the office, Anna focuses her time ensuring that teams are aligned and engaged through communication, strategy and education.

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