By Traci L. Fiatte, Group President, Randstad US
Salary is traditionally a taboo topic. Many people obsess over it but few actually talk about it. No matter how different the job or the experience, people invariably search for some common ground in order to answer one burning question: “am I paid what I am worth?” While that is a fairly subjective question, a good place to start the search for an answer is with realistic market data. Being informed offers tremendous insight into the competition, the needs of employers, and what they are willing to pay individuals needed for company growth.
Putting a Price on Talent
More than 80 percent of Americans will conduct online research before making a major decision or action, whether it’s to make a purchase, choose a restaurant, or change jobs. It is important that this school of thought is applied to salary negotiations. The widespread accessibility and convenience of salary calculators help provide an understanding of where one stands relative to others in the market. This information empowers employees and job seekers to establish where they fit on the compensation scale and determine the right strategy to transition into a more senior position. For more comprehensive information that allows you to compare roles and remuneration across markets, dive into a salary guide. Salary guides are an excellent source that arm employees with critical information needed to explore the possibility of better positions.
There is Massive Opportunity
Before setting any plan in motion, it is also important to research supply and demand trends for administrative roles, which continue to evolve year-over-year. When companies downsized during the Great Recession, many administrative positions were consolidated or eliminated. However, now that the U.S. economy has stabilized and businesses are expanding, those roles are being reintroduced with responsibilities that look more like middle management than support staff. Additionally, the need to fill these positions is increasing, due to the rapid pace of baby boomers exiting the workforce.
In response to these trends, there is an increased need for intermediate-level administrative professionals who require minimal training and can immediately impact results. Ideal candidates have four-to-eight years of administrative experience, strong computer skills, and an associate degree is a plus. The national average pay for an intermediate-level administrative assistant with six years of experience is $20.43 per hour, up 2.5 percent from last year.
Up the Ante
Research published by Towers Watson and Mercer, consulting firms, state that employers are likely to increase base pay by an average of 3 percent in 2016, similar to wage increases in 2015. Some employees see double that amount in their pay because employers generally establish an overall budget “pool” that business managers can configure in whatever way they wish as long as the total salary expenditure does not exceed an overall ceiling set by management. The dollars are then allocated as an incentive for high-potential employees, a reward for high performers or loyal staffers, and/or a retention tool for those most at risk of leaving. Every organization—and every manager—is different, as are salary increase allocation strategies. What can you do to up the ante and boost your chances of earning more than a 3 percent raise?
Whether you are looking for a new opportunity or a means to improve your standing with a current employer, administrative professionals can enhance the possibility of higher compensation in a number of ways:
- Move sideways to move up. Job titles and responsibilities can vary greatly from one employer to another. An administrative assistant in a large office, supporting an entire team, may have experience that is equal to that of an office manager in a smaller organization. Depending upon market location, switching to an office manager position could mean as much as a 30 percent bump in hourly pay rate. Another possibility is to set a goal to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to switch from a general secretarial role to a specialized role. For example, train for medical or legal secretary positions or become bilingual to increase your potential worth, if possible.
- Focus on achievements. While administrative professionals may not have the opportunity to generate revenue, they are often the glue that holds the enterprise together to ensure it runs smoothly and efficiently. Focus on what you have recently done to make an impact on operational performance when making your case for above-average compensation.
- Ask! Studies have shown that taking the initiative to ask for an increase will often result in a higher amount than expected.
With a clearer understanding of comparable rates, job candidates can better evaluate new opportunities and the currently employed can gain a realistic picture of their earnings potential. Arm yourself with information about the market and your own record of achievements, and then start talking salary. The results may surprise you!