Thanks Tess Bennet from the Australian Financial Review for inviting me to share my thoughts on this very relevant topic for career success. While pay rises are great, there are times when other benefits may be more helpful in securing your long term career success and objectives.
Everyone wants a pay rise, but rather than demanding more money, there may be better benefits worth pursuing to accelerate your career and create greater long-term wealth and satisfaction.
The key is knowing what to ask for.
Workplace expert Michelle Gibbings said executive coaching was one of the most common things workers asked for during salary package negotiations, alongside learning opportunities such as short courses, further study, travel to international conferences (a pre-pandemic perk), and membership fees to professional organisations.
Executive coach Amanda Blesing said many of the women she worked with asked for their employer to put them through the Australian Institute of Company Directors course to further their careers and improve their performance in their current role.
The course prepares students to become directors of public, private and not-for-profit organisations.
“From a female career strategy perspective, a lot of women don’t have responsibility for a P&L,” Ms Blesing said.
“So going and doing your board education gives you a nice, little snapshot of financial education. That’s something that frequently women haven’t been exposed to if they’ve come up through a corporate career and only ever had an expenditure budget,” she said.
Ms Gibbings said her clients had also negotiated to sit on subsidiary boards within an organisation to gain board-level leadership experience.
Ed McManus, CEO of Deliveroo Australia, asked for an executive coach.
“Earlier in my career an employer supported me in having a coach. Having the perspective of someone outside of the organisation helped me to analyse feedback on a more regular cadence to develop my leadership skills,” Mr McManus said.
Early in her career Helen Lea, chief employee experience officer at MYOB, negotiated a 12-month lateral move to lead a large transformation project at the same time as operating part-time as a brand manager.
While working as HR director for a multinational consumer goods business based in South Africa, Ms Lea wanted to move outside her business function and gain wider expertise across the organisation.
“The primary objective of this was to add breadth to my cross-functional experience. However, the shape of this opportunity also allowed me to retain a seat at the executive table and so remain close to the commercial performance, opportunities and challenges of the organisation. Effectively I added two years of development experience in 12 months.”
Ms Lea’s advice to workers hoping to climb the career ladder was to proactively put forward proposals that would be mutually beneficial for themselves and their employer.
“Ultimately businesses are businesses but we do want people to succeed within them, so how do you craft a world where it works for the individual but it also works for the organisation? I’d encourage people to think about that.”
Ben Howl’s request was less to do with career development and more to do with lifestyle.
He swapped Melbourne winters for year-round sunshine on Magnetic Island in 2019 after he negotiated with his employer to work remotely most of the time. The software engineer was still required to travel to Melbourne to meet clients every few months, but COVID-19 soon put a stop to that.
Mr Howl struck the agreement with his employer, IT consultancy Mantel Group, through an employee benefits option called My Deal, which allows staff to negotiate an annual benefit of their choosing. The following year he requested an office on the island, which opened in April and happens to be located behind his kids’ school.
He is able to do the daily school drop-off and pick-up and on Wednesdays drops in to read to his youngest child’s year-one class.
“Being able to work remotely and choose where I want to live means I have more time before and after work with my family,” Mr Howl said.
When negotiating workplace benefits, Ms Gibbings advised workers to frame their requests in terms of how they would bring value to the organisation.
“You want to sell it in terms of benefits for the organisation. How do I help the organisation be more successful? How do I help the leader I’m reporting to be more successful or deliver on a project?” she said.
Any additional employee benefits should be written into a worker’s employment contract, said Ms Gibbings.
“It’s very easy for people to make verbal agreements. If you’re doing this at the start of entering into an organisation, make sure you get it in writing,” she said.
She also urged workers to be aware that businesses want to see a return on their investment that may require the employee to commit to working at the organisation for a period of time.
“It almost comes with golden handcuffs,” Ms Gibbings said. Her advice was to evaluate if the request was reasonable and if a worker was happy to make that commitment.
“You don’t want to find yourself later down the track feeling stuck. It’s worth being aware what the obligations are on your part.”