This article was written in collaboration with the Labour Movement. All views expressed are the independent opinion of DollarsAndSense.sg
Before you go storming into your boss’ office and expecting to walk out like a boss with an increment, here are 5 questions you need to ask yourself first.
# 1 How Is Your Industry Or Company Doing?
The global economy is undergoing tumultuous times. In the short-term, the looming trade war between the two largest economies in the world threaten our small and globally-exposed economy. From a long-term perspective, advancements in artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and outsourcing have the potential to change the landscape of jobs forever.
If your company or entire industry is grappling with disruption and are struggling to remain relevant, it may be unrealistic to expect a pay raise. This is even more so if your company is restructuring and has to make some roles redundant.
Rather than feel entitled to a raise just because everyone else appears to be getting one, look at how you can play a leading part of your company’s transformation for the future.
To lay the groundwork for Singapore to remain relevant in the future, the government has developed Industry Transformation Roadmaps (ITM) across 23 industries.
These ITMs address issues and opportunities within each industry, and help facilitate co-ordinated efforts among the government, companies, the Labour Movement and trade associations.
Studying these roadmaps and related skills framework for your trade is fascinating, since these give us an idea of what Singapore’s future economy will look like, and what skills your employer will value.
Disruptive technologies in accountancy industry. (Infographic: NTUC)
A key takeaway is the fact that even in what is usually regarded as “sunset industries”, there are opportunities for companies and employees to reinvent yourselves and continue to thrive.
If you can convince your bosses on how you can be a part of your company’s future, this would make your case for getting a raise much stronger.
# 2 Do You Have The Requisite Skills?
What if you only get a pay raise when you’re promoted? If Spiderman was in Human Resources, he would probably remind us that “With greater job titles come greater responsibility.”
So before lamenting the lack of promotion and pay raise, you should ask yourself whether you have what it takes to perform at a higher level.
A simple way to find your answer is to observe the people who are at your desired job role and how they are doing. Could you do what they do as well as them, or even better? If the answer is no, then what are the skills you will require before you are able to perform at that higher level?
There are two kinds of skills in general: vertical/core skills that are specific to your vocation, and horizontal/broad skills that are applicable across industries and job roles.
Future skills and jobs in demand in the accountancy industry (Infographic: NTUC)
If you find that you do not yet possess the requisite skills, there are a few things you can do.
You can request to take on projects or tasks that will enable you to develop those skills in a hands-on, on-the-job-training kind of way. Ultimately, if you learn something that makes you immensely more valuable to your company, or more desirable to other companies, you’re the one who stands to gain the most.
Alternatively, you could attend classes or courses to get the skills you need.
If you’re looking to get general skills, there are plenty of avenues you can look at that does not involve you quitting your job to take a full-time diploma or degree.
Instead, you can squeeze in short networking and learning courses, attend enrichment courses using your Union Training Assistance Programme or UTAP (for NTUC members) or SkillsFuture credits, or spend more time at the library devouring the treasure trove of knowledge.
Networking events like this session organised by Young NTUC provide opportunities to understand what life is like working in different industries.
If it’s deep, core skills that you require, then this specialised knowledge may not be easily acquired, simply because such expertise is not widespread. In fact, in some industries like cyber-security, what practitioners in the industry encounter are far more advanced and up-to-date than anything that made its way into the textbook or course curriculum.
In order to help Singaporean working people acquire general and deep skills, the Labour Movement has partnered with industry leaders to offer learning opportunities such as just-in-time, modular industry-specific courses with platforms like e2i’s ULeap.
In addition, collaborations in specific industries e.g. between the Labour Movement and The Institution of Engineers Singapore (IES) resulted in the Young Engineers Leadership Programme, a year-long programme filled with sharing sessions that covers technical, leadership and soft skills, career development platforms and networking opportunities.
There are similar collaborations between the Labour Movement and partners in other industries, including the finance industry, the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, and many others.
Whether you enrol in these programmes or seek out other forms of learning, be sure to explore the various grants available to support your learning and development.
There are the aforementioned SkillsFuture credits, NTUC’s Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP), and others. Some companies have budgets set aside to support their staff in undergoing skills upgrading, so do check-in with human resources!
# 3 Are You Ready For More Responsibility That Will Come With it?
A new job title is like confetti – they look colourful and nice on the outside, but it also entails a lot of work.
To justify earning more money, you will need to improve your productivity and possibly take on additional responsibilities. Is that something you are prepared to do?
After receiving the applause, what comes after a promotion is more work, heavier responsibilities, and possibly being answerable for the work performance of others. You might have to stay later at work, especially when you first ease into your (new) role.
Getting that raise and promotion may come with personal costs and sacrifices – such as family time and work-life balance. Is the trade-off something you’re willing to make?
Or would you rather look for an employer or a job that allows you to have both?
# 4 What Does Your Union’s Collective Agreement Say?
Unions collectively bargain for progressive employment terms and conditions (including wages) over and above the Employment Act:
If your company has a Collective Agreement with your union, you can check if there is a clause on annual increments (and any other salary matters), how much the annual increment is (if any), and whether you are covered under the Collective Agreement.
# 5 What Are Your Alternatives?
If you are an invaluable asset to your team and company, it is likely that you will be able to find greener pastures easily. But you will not be in a strong position to ask for a raise or promotion if you do not have a lot of marketable skills and networks that your employer values.
To ensure you can negotiate from a position of strength, you should strive to develop skills and networks such that your company will see your departure as a major loss and would wish to reward and recognise your contributions, instead of risking losing you.
It is also interesting to note that while some skills are easily replaceable (for example, by hiring someone else), your personal networks and rapport with clients and partners are not as easily replicated.
You Are Not Alone
If you’re feeling a little disconcerted, don’t worry. You’re not the only one. In fact, every working person in Singapore faces similar questions and challenges, and has the same desires to have a fruitful career that can provide for their families.
We know that when people come together and pool resources, we can enjoy economies of scale.
Leveraging on strength in numbers, the Labour Movement pushes for better wages, better welfare and better work prospects for working people in Singapore, from the rank-and-file to professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), as well as freelancers and people working in small-medium enterprises.
While no one is more vested in your own career growth and success than yourself, the Labour Movement is ready to support you to upskill and reskill for better job and wage prospects in the future.