Career experts say it’s a good time to ask for a raise

BOSTON — Help wanted signs are everywhere. Online job sites are packed with opportunities. Many companies are not only desperate to find new workers, but they want to keep the ones they’ve already got.

It’s a situation that’s putting workers in the driver’s seat, according to Mark Hamrick, a Senior Economic Analyst at Bankrate.com.

“In terms of the balance between workers and employers, in general, I do think that it tends to favor workers more of late than it has,” he said.

Workers might not need to leave their current job to get paid better. Asking for a raise might yield the same result. Companies like Amazon and Walmart have already boosted wages as have some financial institutions.

“Employers are going to have to, I think, pay more to retain their workers in the future... And the job market is already regarded as somewhat tight,” said Hamrick.

Willis Towers Watson, an international firm specializing in risk management and insurance, is now forecasting an increase in average raises. It’s not a huge jump, but it’s something that hasn’t happened in recent years.

Workers in downtown Boston had different theories about why this is happening.

“It’s because it’s really hard working out there with the public. It’s dangerous frankly, because of COVID,” one man said.

“There’s not much incentive to come back to the office, especially if the job wasn’t that rewarding in the first place,” a woman added.

Elaine Varelas, Managing Director of Keystone Partners, a career consulting firm in Boston, said companies “are rewarding people who stay there, rewarding people that are highly important to their organization.”

Varelas said preparation is key before asking for anything.

“The most important step you need to do when you negotiate is to have real information,” Varelas said. “What does your job pay? What is it worth? Have you done your research about what other organizations are paying?”

The next step is to ask for a meeting with your supervisor, but Hamrick said, “that is not something that is essentially sprung on one’s boss, this should be part of an ongoing conversation about what expectations are.”

Varelas says it makes sense to start with salary, but that other factors like vacation time and contributions to health care need to be factored in when a worker considers their overall compensation.

“Contributions to your 401K, or contributions to childcare, or flexibility when you can’t come into the office. All of those things matter to how happy you are at work. It’s not just about salary and all the research shows that,” added Varelas.

Recent surveys show up to half of the workforce could be considering a job switch. Replacing workers is costly and time consuming for companies. Varelas said it’s something employers want to avoid if they can.

“More and more managers are learning to be flexible, and more employers are learning to ask for what works for them,” Varelas said

Bankrate surveyed workers looking for new jobs and found that better pay was actually their second consideration. The first was the ability to continue working remotely or having flexible hours.