by Jack Chapman
“Lean and mean”… “Tight budget.”
You hear those phrases a lot nowadays, and they discourage people from thinking there’s any way to increase their income at work. It seems the best people can hope for is a cost-of-living adjustment.
However, many ways to sweeten the pot don’t cost employers money out of their pockets. Those ways are easier for them to “swallow,” and can provide real extra income to you.
Chapter Five of Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute covers benefits and perks that, when added to a base salary, can turn a low offer into a lucrative one. These same “bennies and perks” aren’t limited to initial negotiations, they’re at your service whenever you want a raise.
The biggest one, and often sweetest one of all, is time. Things have not turned out the way they were predicted years ago. When I was growing up in the 1950s, there was concern about the coming “leisure society.” How we were going to cope with all the leisure time generated by all the labor-saving devices that were coming down the line? As it turns out: No problem! The four-day work week never came to pass. We’re more efficient now, yes, but we work longer anyway — we’re just expected to produce twice as much.
So time is a really valuable commodity. If you can’t get a cash raise, why not ask for more vacation? One week more of vacation can mean a 2 percent raise. Two weeks is 4 percent. If you arrange it all correctly, you can still do the work you need to do, and take the time off, too!
An interesting example of time negotiation happened with a client of mine who wanted to earn $40,000 a year doing library work. She was interviewed for a position that paid $20,000 a year. Instead of turning down the interview, she spent time finding out the specialty library’s needs and found a way to be paid the full $20,000 but work only 20 hours a week. She discovered that they needed total reorganization, computerization, security, and better access for their patrons. She noted that they needed more than 40-hour/week coverage and planned to handle that need by having a librarian there 40 hours and using $8/hour clerks for the balance of the time and some routine work.
She proposed that she take on the project and
1) work only 20 hours a week on the higher-skilled tasks, and
2) train the two clerks to do higher-level library work besides just clerical tasks.
Once these clerks were trained, the library would have 100 person-hours of skilled coverage instead of the 40 hours skilled plus 80 hours clerical that they had been using originally.
Net result? She got paid the equivalent of $40,000: working for $20,000, but only half time. The library was happy, too, because with the team of three, they had better coverage all-in-all than even a full-time librarian could give them in a week.
Of course, it’s unlikely you can cut down to half-time for full pay, but consider this example: I worked with a client who was putting in 10-14 hour days on the job. It was stressful, but it took that long to complete a day’s work.
Since he was putting in those days already, I coached him to go to his supervisors and propose this 40-hour week: four-day week of 10 hours each (knowing he’d put in 11-12, but no matter). They agreed! So he was able to take something he was doing already (long days) and negotiate a day off he never would otherwise have had. It also forced him to up-grade the competence of his assistant who now handled things on his own on Fridays. This arrangement also made his work easier.
There are plenty of other ways to negotiate time, too. There’s flextime; there are personal days; there’s payment for unused vacation time. Many people don’t negotiate “comp time” for days they spend at conventions, trade shows, late with customers, etc. By paying attention to getting compensated for that time (either by money, or more likely with comp time) you can increase your income dollars/per/hour.
Another clever way to make more money on the job is to gamble. Now, I don’t mean running a poker game in the cafeteria; I mean betting your boss that you will meet or exceed a target. Construction deadlines, production deadlines, sales quotas, customer satisfaction survey results, cleanliness awards, employee productivity measures, accident-free days, newsletter excellence award recognition — these are just a few of the things bosses like and will pay for.
These are called bonuses!
Discuss these compensation items with your boss at review time, or any time there is a change in your company’s operating procedures. Bosses like to reward excellence. Your job is to tie the excellence in to a measurable quantity and link some dollar compensation to it, not just a “nice going” letter. You want a specific dollar bonus for this type of work.
Sometimes these things can even get you a raise outside the normal channels. For instance, I worked with a client who had a boss who was receiving criticism from the board for the high turnover in the company. The boss’s compensation was tied to the overall profitability of the organization. High turnover wreaked havoc on profitability because the organization was constantly training new people and cleaning up messes from people who dropped the ball when they left in the middle of a project.
Because she knew this mattered to him personally — not just as a company goal — my client was able to get a bonus for lowered turnover: she got a seminar in “employee retention” and some “play time” along with it. She was able to turn the training into three days’ work and seven days’ vacation. And all this when the board had declared that the top raise would be 3 percent that year.
So, when looking to increase your compensation, consider taking extra value in terms of time and bonuses. Both can enrich you outside the parameters of a traditional raise.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Jack Chapman is author of Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute. He is also a telecoach for individual salary negotiations. Address: 511 Maple Ave., Wilmette, IL 60091; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: voice (847) 251-4727; fax (847) 256-4690; Website: salarynegotiations.com.