Negotiating salary can be a daunting task for healthcare workers in the private sector, particularly if you’re used to set pay-bands within the NHS. Whether you want to secure a better package at interview or ask your boss for a pay rise, here’s how to make your case and get a better deal.
Do some market research
Before you go into any kind of salary negotiation, it’s important to research the market.
‘Check what professionals with comparable experience and duties earn in a similar role in a similar-sized organisation or service,’ suggests Heike Guilford, Managing Director of The Coaching Nurse.
‘To find out, you could speak to people you know at other organisations, study job adverts for similar roles, or contact the HR departments of other companies.’
Check your role against NHS pay scales
Most organisations in the private sector will have an established pay structure, and many employers use the NHS job evaluation scheme to determine approximate pay scales.
Nick Simpson, CEO of nursing agency MSI Group, says: ‘You’re likely to find that your role is a match for common band profiles developed from job evaluations undertaken for Agenda for Change. By comparing your responsibilities, knowledge and skills to those detailed in the band profiles, you can work out if your pay is on the right scale for your skills.’
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has a useful document, Fair Pay in the Independent Sector, which outlines responsibilities and pay for each band. When asking for a pay rise, you may want to compare your current pay against the next-highest increment point.
Highlight how your duties have changed
And if your organisation doesn’t set its pay structure in accordance with NHS bands?
‘You need to justify clearly the reasons you believe that you deserve a pay rise, and how your role has developed since your last pay review,’ says Nick.
‘If you have taken on new tasks, highlight these to your employer, along with how you’ve continued to enhance your relevant skillsets and proactively developed your knowledge.’
Show how you’ve added value
A common mistake is to ask for a pay rise based on your length of service.
Heike explains: ‘Saying, “I’ve been here 10 years and that’s why I deserve to earn more,” will not impress your manager, even if you compare your salary to what a new starter gets.’
Instead, focus on the change in your responsibilities and the results you have delivered.
‘Any project that saved cash or made resources stretch that little bit further is worth a great deal to your boss,’ says Heike. ‘What are your achievements impacting on the bottom line? This might be things like inducting new agency staff, offering informal training sessions to new starters, being able to support the CQC inspection in the absence of your line manager.
‘All of these things have a financial and operational benefits. Convey how all of these have saved your boss and your organisation time, effort, money and any other resources.’
Don’t be put off by a ‘no’
Before you go into the meeting, consider what objections your boss may have and how you might overcome them. ‘If your manager is likely to say there’s no cash in the budget, outline how much money your work has saved the organisation to date,’ suggests Heike.
If your boss says “no”, don’t be afraid to ask why.
Heike says: ‘Take a note of their objections and work out how to counteract them. Ask what you need to do, and by what date, in order for them to change their mind. That way, you have goals to work towards and can raise the issue again once the agreed time period is up.’
Make the organisation’s objectives your goals
Aligning your goals to that of the organisation can help when it comes to future negotiations.
Heike says: ‘Take the time to get to know the current organisational priorities in your service. If they’re looking to reduce stress-related sickness, what could you do to help? This might be doing informal research on the ground to determine the most common stress triggers and suggesting some simple ways to support your team.
‘If you implement just one simple suggestion and it makes a real difference, it will put you in a great position for salary negotiation. An example of this may be blocking internal emails for set periods of the day to improve communication, productivity and available time.’
Think beyond just pay
If more pay isn’t an option, consider asking for benefits other than salary. Perhaps your employer might agree to flexible working, more holiday leave, or training and development opportunities.
‘There may not be money in the salary budget, but there may well be cash for training,’ says Heike. ‘Would it increase your worth (at this organisation or another) to specialise your skills and knowledge? If so, make a case for how it will help improve your service. That way, you will be developing your career – and when you come to negotiate again, you will have more bargaining power.’