By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

You can’t always say yes to a request for a pay raise. You might like to. But, sometimes the right answer is no. That can put you in a tough spot when it comes to retaining your talent. And that tough spot could be getting even tougher.

A recent study by the Hay Group, warns that a ‘global talent exodus’ is coming. Staff turnover levels kept flat by the recession have risen nearly 13% over the past 2 years. Those turnover levels are set to increase to at least 20% over the next 5 years. BV won’t be immune from this trend.

It could be time for you to be focusing as much on retaining ‘flight risks’, (top talent that is looking to leave), as on finding new talent. The greatest ‘flight risk’ for your top talent is right after they have had a raise request turned down.

Why? Because a refused raise request can often look like a lack of career development prospects which, this Gallup Poll shows, are a bigger reason that people leave than even pay issues. So, if you refuse a raise you could be triggering thoughts of departure.

Of course, we’re not advocating saying, “yes”, to every raise request just to keep staff. But, saying, “no”, in the right way can reduce tendencies to ‘jump ship’, and possibly even refocus a drifting worker.

This is why it can make sense for practice leaders to respond to raise requests with a pay raise request questionnaire, designed to act as a polite deterrent to idle requests. It should include the following instructions,

  1. Outline any extra responsibilities you have taken on/would like to take on
  2. Outline outstanding achievements/performance which set you apart from your peers

Asking these questions will let your staffer know that you are prepared to give a raise, but that she needs to make quite specific achievements and advancements to qualify; demonstrating career progression opportunity. Of course, if your employee makes a good case, you may need to seriously consider the request, (or some alternative), or risk making a deserving worker feel like there is no career progression.

On the other hand, if your staffer can’t show advancement or achievement you not only have what the employee will see as a justifiable reason to decline the request, but you also have an opening for a discussion on the steps needed to earn that pay raise. This, in turn, can lead you into a positive conversation about training, support, skill and performance development goals.

Saying “no” in this constructive and forward looking way can make your employee feel there is hope for the future, and reduced the chance of ‘flight risk’.

Saying “No” to a Request for a Raise
John Borrowman
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