Improve a job offer by thinking beyond your salary.
It’s a job seeker’s market. The unemployment rate has fallen from its double-digit high in 2020 to around 6%, creating a tight labor market in which employers must compete for talent. As a result, employees are in a good position to negotiate for higher salaries and workplace benefits with new or prospective employers.
Before you hit the negotiating table, here’s what you need to consider:
Know what you’re worth
If you’re competent, reliable, and easy to work with, then you’re a valuable asset for your current or new employers. Go into your negotiation with a clear understanding of what skills you bring to the business. Be ready to frame salary and benefits as an investment in these skills and even as tools that will increase your productivity by allowing you the flexibility to manage your schedule or providing resources for career development, for example.
Know what’s available
Some formal benefits may be impossible to negotiate because your employer simply doesn’t offer them. For example, if your employer doesn’t have a tuition reimbursement program already in place, don’t expect to negotiate one into existence — at least not immediately.
Before negotiations begin, get to know what benefits are available. Ask a company about:
- Vacation days. Two weeks is the default in Canada, but you can always ask for more.
- Tuition reimbursement. Many companies will fully or partially reimburse you for tuition at a post-secondary institution. In some cases, this benefit may extend to family members.
- Remote work options. Find out whether your employer currently accommodates work-from-home arrangements or allows employees to decide when to start and end their work days.
- Signing bonuses. Research whether signing bonuses are common in your industry. If they are, they can be a way for your employer to sweeten a job offer even when they can’t increase your salary.
- Commission percentage. If you happen to work in an industry that compensates by commission in addition to salary, you can ask for a higher rate. This can be a good item to negotiate because it only costs your employer when you bring revenue to the business.
- Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) matching. Some companies will match your RRSP contributions. Ask if this is something your employer offers and at what rate.
- Equipment budgets. If you’ll be using your own tech devices for your job, ask if there’s an annual budget for upgrades on hardware and software.
- Equity compensation. If your employer has an equity compensation plan in place, you may be able to negotiate for a greater number of shares. Employees offer equity compensation in part to incentivize employees to work hard for their company. The idea is your hard work will help the company grow potentially increasing the value of your shares. Asking for more equity can demonstrate your commitment to the job.
Get more out of your benefits
If it’s starting to look like your employer has run out of room in their budget to expand your benefits, focus on items that don’t require more money in the immediate future. Improve your quality of life by pushing for flexible scheduling options. Increase the value of your resume by upgrading your job title. You may even wish to focus on your severance package, which doesn’t cost your employer anything immediately. However, it helps ensure job security and that you’ll be taken care of should your employer need to let you go.
Be sure to consider how increased benefits might affect your financial plan. For example, will a signing bonus or salary increase allow to boost retirement savings? Or will vesting stock options bump you into a higher tax bracket in certain years? Your financial advisor can help you integrate your new benefits package into your financial plan.