Whether you’re just about to start a new job or are promoted by your present employer, negotiations are likely to form part of your next steps. This is an important element in taking control of the direction of your career and the quality of your life. In a society that promotes capitalist approaches, it can be easy to forget you don’t just have to accept what your employer offers in exchange for your unique talents. You have valuable perspectives, and you have the strength to negotiate.
That said, many people assume their scope to negotiate begins and ends with their salary. But this belies the fact you can and should expect more for your time with a business. Your benefits package makes up a part of your compensation, and the positive impact it can have on your life means you should treat it with as much seriousness as your salary.
But what is the best way to approach this? Let’s take a moment to review a few key principles to bear in mind as you set about negotiating for the benefits you deserve.
Plan Reasonable Requests
The key to any negotiation is good preparation. It empowers you to approach the matter in an informed way. It also shows your employer you are confident in your knowledge of what you should expect them to include as part of your compensation package. As such, before you discuss salaries and benefits, it’s worth taking the time to understand what requests you can make that are reasonable.
This begins with knowing what’s important to you. Remember your career is not just a means to pay your bills, it should be a route toward improving your life. So apply some thought to what helps. Would a basic health insurance plan be enough, or would you need one that applies to your family as well? What amount of paid time off each year would help you to take reasonable breaks to recharge your batteries and serve your travel plans? Knowing this gives you a place to build from.
Next, you should commit to some research. Look into what benefits are usually provided for your industry and your role. Use this to help shape your reasonable requests — you may even find standards for your position may be higher than what you had initially considered. If you’re engaging with a new employer, use review websites to establish what benefits they tend to provide. A retirement plan is important to help ensure your future financial stability. If there are indications your new employer doesn’t provide a 401(k), you can then prepare plans which support alternatives. Some approaches are self-directed, such as Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or if you’re a self-employed freelancer you might be able to have a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) scheme. In either case, preparing some knowledge of these accounts can help you shift your attention toward a boost in your salary so you can contribute to these accordingly.
Outline the Advantages
When you’re entering a negotiation of any kind, it is a mistake to approach the matter from a personal perspective alone. It’s important to remember your employer has priorities of their own, and as such any requests are going to be weighed against these. You should, therefore, make an effort to frame your requests for benefits in ways that both reflect the needs of the company and show there are clear advantages in providing them to you.
If you’re pushing for more flexible working conditions, this is key. There are a lot of people who have worked from home during the pandemic who are looking to make it a more permanent arrangement. You can boost your chances of gaining this as part of your benefits by addressing the business priorities. Talk about the potential productivity boosts and how it can save costs. If you’re usually expected to drive to work every day or have a company car, present the case that less travel can cut down on the need for potentially expensive maintenance costs. Indeed, mention how fewer trips will help you keep up better with your vehicle maintenance itself. The same goes for the maintenance of company vehicles. Remote work means your activities are unlikely to be interrupted by breakdowns, and there are fewer mechanics’ bills the business has to foot for a company vehicle. Another way to find more flexibility in your work life is to suggest the use of Earned Wage Access that allows employees to have access to all of their earned wages without having to wait for a regular paycheck.
It can also be smart to come from the perspective of the business’s relationship to the current employment climate. Discuss how implementing benefits not just for you but also as a standard for other workers can be instrumental in improving retention and attracting better quality candidates in the future. Highlight the generational shifts, that Gen-Zers and Millennials have expectations about the organizations they choose to work with, and these revolve around not just salaries but resources that improve the quality of their lives.
Be Ready for Pushback
Finally, it’s always important to remember few businesses want to provide anything they don’t have to. This extends to the benefits you might want. As such, you need to take time to prepare for the type of pushback you might experience in negotiations.
When preparing, try to predict the arguments an employer might have. Look at things from their perspective and understand why — for economic or other reasons — certain benefits you’re requesting may not be practical for them. This can help you to look into ways to counter this, and perhaps prepare some alternatives that show you’ve considered their perspectives and are willing to meet them halfway.
Above all else, don’t enter the conversation combatively. Rather, approach pushback as an opportunity to find mutually acceptable compromises, and show yourself to be a considerate, intelligent negotiator who is valuable to their organization.
Starting a new role is an opportunity to boost your career but also improve your lifestyle. When pushing for a better benefits package, put the time in to prepare. Understand what can be reasonably expected, and frame your requests in a way that shows the business also benefits. By putting work in beforehand — including responses to potential pushback — you can help negotiations run smoothly and effectively for everyone involved.