About Pay Raises

About Pay Raises
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Everyone wants job raises, but they are not always easy to get and they are rarely big enough. For most employees, raises are awarded on a pre-determined schedule. Asking for a raise outside of this schedule can be the toughest conversation an employee has at work. Some companies have strict policies and guidelines that determine raises, while others make decisions when the need arises.

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Reasons to Give Employees Raises

The most common reason for a pay raise is to reward an employee for job performance and longevity in a job. Raises also serve as an important incentive to stay with a company. If the only way to make more money is to change jobs, people are likely to quit to earn more in a new position. This is common for hourly employees in high-turnover industries.

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Raises can also be awarded to acknowledge that a new employee has met minimum standards or completed an introductory period.

Types of Raises

Hourly employees are often given annual increases. These are most commonly offered once a year, on a designated date, across the board to all hourly employees or those in a specific job classification. Hourly job raises may also be based on length of service or added job responsibilities. Both hourly and salaried employees are paid increases to acknowledge promotions.

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Merit- or performance-based increases are paid on specific schedules or time frames to reward performance. These are the most common types of raises that salaried employees receive.

A raise can also be offered as a pay adjustment when it has been determined that an employee is significantly underpaid compared to competitors, other similarly situated employees, or within a designated pay or rate range. Salary adjustments are less common and typically supported by extensive review and structured policy.

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When to Give Raises

There are four distinct time frames for pay raises. In the event of a promotion, the raise coincides with the start of the new position or responsibilities. Secondly, employers may bump wages up for new, hourly employees after a predetermined introductory period. Thirdly, most employers use a set date during the year to give raises whether they are across the board or merit-based, called a pay cycle.

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Pay cycles can be set at any time during the year to coordinate with an employer's budget cycle. Union contracts typically include set dates and amounts for raises for covered employees. Lastly, some employers schedule raises on employment anniversary dates. In all situations, if decision making is delayed until after the intended effective date of a raise, the increase can be paid retroactively.

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Typical Pay Raise Percentage

Annual merit increases in the United States average around three or four percent. For example, the average pay raise in 2022 is expected to be ​3.4 percent​. Promotional increases are likely to be higher and may rarely reach ​20 percent​ but more often fall below ​10 percent​. Individuals typically gain large increases in salary only when they accept a new job at another company.

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When organizations set budgets for annual merit increases, they may link specific percentage increases to certain standards of performance or allow decision makers to divide an overall budget. A vice president will be told that her budget increase is four percent of current salaries. She can then use performance measures to give two percent to some employees and five percent to others, as long as the total is within budget.

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Some companies offer senior executives an option to receive all or part of a raise as a lump sum. In difficult economic times, some employers freeze wages and delay increases, or even ask for reductions in wages.

Misconceptions About Job Raises

Asking for or negotiating a raise is challenging. Whether as an adjustment or during a regular pay cycle, conversations will be more successful when employees do their homework. Effective requests include specific reasons, benchmarks and comparable pay information.

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Asking for a raise should be a strictly business conversation. Employees should not identify personal reasons, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, a new house or a longer commute, as criteria to support a raise request. These non-business-related considerations could result in a discriminatory decision.

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During regular pay cycles, employees should understand organizational policies and amounts budgeted for increases. While a three percent increase may not result in a significant change in take-home pay, it likely represents a solid raise within a company's formula.

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