Ricochet News

Balancing the books, staff morale and salary negotiations during tough economic times

May 10, 2017
Balancing the books, staff morale and salary negotiations during tough economic times

The strained South African economy has presented the HR sector with a tricky catch 22. While employees may be on the hunt for increased earnings to keep up with the rising cost of living, employers face the struggle of keeping staff happy and motivated while their organisation regains its footing financially.

This is according to Kay Vittee, CEO of Kelly - South Africa’s first recruitment agency of choice for rapid permanent and contingency staffing solutions - who notes that in light of the sluggish economic growth, a high unemployment rate, the current political climate, and the country’s credit rating downgrades to junk status, many businesses have found themselves in a difficult place financially.

She says, “More and more businesses are cutting back, not only on their workforce, but also on the compensation and benefits they are able to offer staff. Keeping staff morale and productivity high during tough times is a challenge facing many businesses.”

“At the same time, employees are looking to increase their earnings and business leaders can expect to be approached by staff to discuss salary increases.”

“For those organisations who may be unable to meet the requirements of staff when it comes to pay negotiations, now is the time to ‘think differently’ when designing a strategy  to increase morale, retain talent and keep delivering on business targets,” Vittee explains.

She notes that employers may want to incorporate an incentive scheme, team-building initiatives, social events, employee discounts or share schemes if cash flow doesn’t allow room for annual increases.

Vittee says, “It is important to consult your staff on things that they would enjoy and appreciate. This showcases to staff that the company is actively trying to engage with them and connect through activities that are close to their hearts.”

When it comes to share options and awards schemes, Vittee suggests that companies consider offering staff the option to buy and sell shares at a fixed price or award staff shares as part of a bonus scheme. “Awards or options could be granted for meeting or exceeding targets for their department,” she adds.

Vittee notes that while some staff understand that the economy has a direct impact on business, as well as on their own pockets, there are some points to keep in mind when requesting a pay rise with your employer.

Vittee notes her top three factors for employees to consider:

1. Where do you stand in the current market?

Going into a salary negotiation, it is important for an employee to understand where they stand in terms of experience and earnings in the current market. It would, therefore, be a good idea to assess your current salary against the market average.

This research should help you identify a realistic number and keep your expectations in line. Ask yourself, how well is your current employer paying you? If you are earning at the lower end of the market average, you may be in a better position to negotiate.

If you are already being paid well when considering market averages, but you are still eager to earn more, it may be time to look into promotions that you may be suited for in order to increase your responsibility and earn the salary you seek. 

2. Are you in a position to negotiate?

It is essential to go into a salary negotiation with a positive and calm mindset and not with the idea that it’s an entitlement, or with a ‘you vs. them approach’.

Keeping a friendly but assertive mindset and emphasising that you’d like to come to an agreement that would benefit of both parties sets a good tone and increasing the chances of your manager being open to your proposal.

Before you initiate the conversation, you should be asking yourself - objectively - whether or not you really deserve what you are asking for and why. Do you add significant value or go above and beyond the call of duty? Has the feedback you have received from managers hinted at the potential for professional and monetary growth in the near future?

If you are a highly-valued employee and have consistently performed well, management are more likely to be open to negotiate.

3. Is it just about money for right now?

Has your employer communicated to staff that the company is tightening its belt or is trying to cut costs? If so, going into a salary negotiation and just discussing money alone may be ineffective.

In this case, employees need to consider their options both short and long-term. Ask yourself if you feel it is fair to put additional pressure on the company at this time? Could you wait it out a few months? Is it perhaps better to discuss the future of the organisation and how you can contribute to growing the business with increased earning potential in future? Would you consider benefits such as flexi-hours, travel and educational assistance or training opportunities as part of a better overall package, or should you instead be looking at opportunities outside of the company?  Are there opportunities in the market that are in line with your salary expectations?

Going in to a meeting with your facts, collaborative ideas, and an understanding of the company’s position in the current economic climate, is likely to increase your chances of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement for both parties.