For all of last year’s changes, some things are set in stone. Commutes may be largely nonexistent and water coolers might have gathered a thick layer of dust, but we still have many of the same concerns; do our coworkers like us? Did we just send that private message meant for a friend to our boss? And what should we be doing to prove we deserve a higher salary?
Asking for a raise is nerve-wracking. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to advocate for ourselves — salary increases would be offered, when and for the amount that we deserve. Unfortunately, that isn’t usually the case, which means we need to demonstrate our worth to a business and how we’ve positively affected change and growth. In other words, we need KPIs.
Love or hate them, KPIs can be your best friend. When applied correctly, they give us goals to work towards and help us create plans to get there. They’re useful for employers to define what they need from their team and for that team to measure how successful that employer is at directing the ship.
Very few, if any, KPIs probably took into account the looming pandemic at the end of 2019, however. Metrics which made sense in a pre-COVID world haven’t all stood the test of time. Lockdowns, economic shifts and the necessity of home offices mean that milestones have changed and business plans have been forced to adapt.
This doesn’t mean that older KPIs are all outdated; many metrics continue on in 2021. COVID created gaps, however, and I’ve received questions from talent; they want to know how they should shift their KPIs to demonstrate that, even in an uncertain economy, they still deserve a raise.
It’s important to note that KPIs are an employer’s responsibility. If you feel uncertain about what you are expected to contribute, speak up. Start a discussion with your manager; while 2020 was a learning curve across the board, it is still the job of management to provide employees with direction and clear communication about goals and expectations.
There are steps that any employee can take, however, to meet those goals, whether they’ve changed or stayed the same.
Proving your worth in 2021
If the last year taught us anything, it’s that large changes can happen and happen fast. This means, going into a salary negotiation, it’s important that you demonstrate in-demand skills; these show, regardless of unseen changes, that you’ll meet the KPIs they’ve laid out or may switch to.
- In a world of home offices, demonstrating that you’re able to reach deadlines autonomously, in an environment full of distractions, is crucial. This doesn’t mean you need to strictly be at your desk at the same time you would have arrived at the office or work uninterrupted till five. If there are young children in the house, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll mirror your office habits. Demonstrating to your boss that, despite this, you still finish projects on time and up-to-standard is what matters.
- Managers want to know that employees can meet unseen changes without freezing up if the old plan has to be abandoned. 2020 asked us to think on our feet and meet the occasion with creativity and quick solutions. Even as life settles, employers are going to want to see that, if 2020 happens again, you’ll be able to meet it.
- Without face-to-face interaction, communication standards are critical. You need to demonstrate that even remotely, everyone on your team is clear about what you’re doing. Employers want to see that, even at home, you’re reliable, consistent and proactive in your communications, predicting where discussions might fall through the cracks and implementing cautionary procedures and habits.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — it’s so crucial to be proactive. While it’s impossible to predict the future, demonstrating that you’re taking steps ahead of time to take on potential upsets rather than just reacting to them is a great way to prove you deserve that raise.
- Working from home, it’s easier to lose sight of the bigger picture. Without face-to-face interactions in the office, it’s not always clear what others are doing or whether there are gaps that need attention. Speaking with our clients, it’s clear that one of the most important things you can do right now is to look beyond the specific tasks you have on your calendar.
- This doesn’t mean you need to burn yourself out: avoid taking on more than you can handle. If you can, though, reach out, help team members and consider the business as a whole. While completing set tasks is important, we can’t lose sight of the bigger office, even if we’re not there anymore. Because our workplaces have become more isolated, it’s crucial to maintain and foster relationships.
When it comes to KPIs, there is no one-size-fits-all. It’s important to speak with your manager if you’re concerned that post-COVID, you’re missing the mark. No matter what role you’re in or KPIs that you need to fill, however, approaching your salary negotiation with these skill sets as your focus and the ability to demonstrate them will give you a leg up.
Of course, we won’t always get the raises we ask for, even if we think we’ve hit the mark. If this happens, don’t just walk away: ask why. Consider whether you’re happy to stay with your company for another six months to a year while you wait for a potential raise down the road. And again, ask what you can do: can your boss reassess your KPIs? If you achieve these, will they agree to a 5-10% salary increase? And if not, is this still the right job for you?
As always, it’s important to be proactive. Reviewing KPIs is an important step, but sometimes they aren’t the solution. When it comes to career progression and fair payment, not all businesses are equal, and not all organisations can maintain pre-COVID raises. While holding yourself to a high standard is great, holding yourself to impossible standards is not worth your energy. It’s important to mark when it’s worth staying on and when it’s better to cut your losses. Your time deserves respect, and you deserve a workplace that remembers this.