Put Yourself to Work (Validate your Value)

Published by CPA Canada in CareerVision

One of the biggest questions that people in the workplace have is whether or not their level of compensation is fair.  Am I being paid enough?  Why is she being paid more than I am?  He got another raise (at least, I think he did); what about me?  Anyone who has been employed for a while will be very familiar with these nagging questions, on both a personal and workplace level.

The reality is that, left unresolved, these questions can actually impact how you view your job and your level of performance, and simply put, that’s not good.  Couple this with all of the effort you have made to invest in yourself, perhaps through taking on workplace assignments, professional development, or volunteer opportunities, and you really have a need to better understand what your value in the marketplace actually is.

Although some might protest that this is “too much work” or “not worth the trouble”, if you really want to resolve any compensation related uncertainties and obtain the information you need to move yourself forward, this type of research is a must.  End the ambiguity by taking practical steps to understand and validate your value.  Here’s how.

Validating your Value

Compensation should be considered both in internal (i.e., within the particular company) and external (i.e., in the marketplace, including similar positions) terms.  What a specific position is “worth” can also be impacted by other factors, such as geographic location, industry type, and size/complexity of the organization.

Put yourself to work

  • If you are not already familiar with the various positions in your department, take the time to understand what the various jobs are, the order of their seniority, and where the typical career progression paths are.
  • Ask your manager what the salary range is for your current position, as well as any variable compensation components, such as bonuses or commissions. Organizations should have a salary range for each position, which will give you an indication of the earning potential for your current job.
  • Ask your manager to provide you with an indication of the skills and experience that are required to progress to the next level. It is also helpful to know whether or not there will be a promotion opportunity available in the foreseeable future and the length of time that is typically required for a staff member to achieve promotion status, based on typical circumstances.
  • External (or market) compensation levels should also be investigated, to help understand how your current earnings and the salary range for your position compare to that of similar positions at other companies. Some of the sources to seek out include:
    • Salary surveys, which are typically conducted by professional associations or human resource companies;
    • Current job postings for other companies, which can be accessed through employers, recruitment firms, and online job boards;
    • Research sources, such as governmental agencies and companies that follow particular industries or types of jobs; and
    • Networking, with people that work in similar types of jobs or organizations
  • Compile the external information you have gathered and try to get a sense of how your current compensation and salary range compares. You might find that your compensation is lower than market (or be surprised to find out that it is higher than market levels; so much for complaining!), but should resist the temptation to react emotionally to this information.
  • Prior to taking any further steps, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion on your findings from someone who is more experienced in this area; perhaps a mentor or person that has human resources or senior business experience. Compensation is a complex area with many factors, so it’s important to take the time to understand the information before taking any further steps.
  • If, after conducting this process, you are comfortable with your level of compensation, rest in the knowledge that you have gained information that has validated your current value and have identified the process to do so in the future. Knowledge is power and is a must in taking control of your professional future.
  • If you still have concerns or questions about your compensation, request a meeting with your manager to discuss the matter. You must, however, plan for the meeting, including laying out the information you have gathered to logically demonstrate your concerns (this includes highlighting achievements you have made to increase your personal value, including all of the areas discussed in this series).  Do not take the approach of complaining without substance.
  • Going forward, stay current with internal and external compensation developments and use the information to evaluate both your earnings progression and career development priorities.

Knowledge provides choices: to stay, to go elsewhere, or to rise to the next level.  This approach is so much better than being caught in the cycle of uncertainty and ambiguous information.  So, break that cycle!