Despite mounting fears of a recession and a wave of layoffs among high-profile tech employers, IT professionals are still very much in demand — and in many cases they feel overworked and underappreciated.
This all adds up to a strong bargaining position for established performers. But translating excellent performance into a better salary or additional benefits requires crafting a strong message and the ability to provide compelling evidence to support demands for a bigger paycheck.
Amid this economic downturn, Hired's CEO Josh Brenner said he's seen average salaries remain relatively flat for experienced tech professionals — those with six or more years of experience — on the company's platform between January 2022 to date.
"However, IT workers should not be discouraged in the salary negotiations process," he said. "They should know and advocate for their market value in this climate, especially if they are taking on more responsibilities under tighter resourcing and staffing constraints."
How Wage Transparency Laws Can Help Employees Get the Tech Salaries They Deserve
The wage transparency laws being enacted across the United States in states such as New York, California, and Washington have made it easier for candidates in the U.S. to see and understand a salary bracket of what they should be paid, Brenner said.
"These changes have created more possibilities for jobseekers to understand their worth and champion to get paid what they deserve," Brenner said.
He pointed to tools like Glassdoor and Payscale that can serve as helpful resources to obtain compensation estimates against market salaries.
IT workers can use this information to negotiate a pay raise as part of an overall conversation on how they've exceeded meeting their job requirements, according to Brenner.
"They can have a more detailed conversation — full of context, examples, and specifics — to argue for how their contributions are adding value to company's larger business needs and future goals," he said.
Understanding Your Value on the Open Market
Josh Drew, regional director for the Boston area at Robert Half, said individuals should "absolutely" feel comfortable having the conversation about compensation, explaining that candidates who understand where the current market is and what other opportunities are out there can better leverage their worth on the open market if they were to make a move.
"Being able to articulate [to] your manager why you're looking for a raise by giving specific work examples or project examples is always a great indicator," he said. "It's important to be realistic and understand what your ultimate end game is and being comfortable with what you ultimately want."
Drew suggests giving specific examples of where you performed well or went above and beyond, adding that some companies do performance reviews on a quarterly basis that can be used to help make your case.
"If you're working for a company that has checks and balances throughout the year highlighting consistent performance and reviews from the last four quarters, use that feedback that supports the work you've been doing," Drew said. "Sometimes you can leverage what's already in place from a performance review or employee review standpoint and articulate that in the context of where you see your value."
In IT, key metrics to illustrate performance will vary, depending on the role, Brenner noted.
"What will be more critical than ever in the year ahead is a candidate's ability to articulate the impact of his or her work on business results," he said. "This will require that employees stay continuously aware of company goals and translate their impact — which will vary depending on how one needs to handle these volatile market conditions."
This is especially the case for people managers in tech who need to build teams, while continuously motivating existing staff — while also guiding them through change.
From Brenner's perspective, strong emotional intelligence, or "EQ," is no longer a "soft skill" and nice-to-have.
"Harboring and wielding exemplary skills in communication and cross-team collaboration will be key to driving real impact across teams," he said.
Drew added that if a prior manager or superior has moved on from the company, it's a good idea to present any supervisor recommendations — whether it's a reference or a letter of recommendation or even a positive reinforcement email.
"Having those examples and bringing them to light is always a great tool," he said.
Even taking the first step of setting up a meeting to talk about compensation helps the company know what you're thinking and opens a clear channel of communication, Drew said.
"More than anything, it's engaging in the conversation and being prepared to give examples and justify what you're asking for," he said. "As much as there's been a slowdown in hiring and there's been some tech layoffs, it's still an extremely strong market in the national remote job opportunity for candidates to leverage their value and the compensation that comes with it."
Looking Beyond Financial Compensation — and Borders
Alternative compensation options and benefits to champion, according to Brenner, include:
- flexible work
- paid time-off
- better and more comprehensive health insurance benefits
Hired's most recent report on tech salaries found those to be some of the most compelling benefits for candidates, where in some cases, respondents would be willing to trade in a higher salary for practical benefits, including work-from-home flexibility, health insurance, and 401(k) retirement matching.
"If companies are open to alternative compensation options, these benefits may be practical solutions and offer a greater sense of financial security," he said.
In the post-pandemic workplace, remote work has given candidates an upper hand to negotiate for salaries based on their role responsibilities, rather than location.
Brenner pointed to data that found remote salaries have outpaced local salaries in most markets, paying up to an average of $3,000 more than local roles.
"Candidates have greater flexibility to argue for their remote market value if they find they are being compensated less for the role, due to their location," he said.
Drew also advises IT workers to be upfront and professional about how the outlook on a salary increase may result in their exploring different options.
"It's OK to be having an open conversation, where you articulate that you might need to explore other opportunities or you might be in a spot where you will return to a recruiter or follow up with somebody who reached out to you about an opportunity," he said. "Having professional dialogue around these issues is healthy."
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About the authorNathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITPro Today. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.