merit raises

How to make the case for a merit raise

March 18, 2011: 11:32 AM ET

To get a formerly routine pay hike, you now have to "exceed expectations," says a new study. Here's how to make your pitch.

By Anne Fisher, contributor

Dear Annie: Is this a good time to ask for a raise? I haven't had a pay increase in over three years now, and I really feel I am overdue for one. Business at my company has been picking up over the past few months, and I, along with my team, have contributed to that, working flat-out to make up for the fact that our department was cut in half back in early 2009. I'm not whining -- I love my job, and the benefits (including 401(k) matching and medical insurance) have remained generous throughout the downturn, so I realize I'm luckier than many others. But at what point is it reasonable to seek a pay hike? —Deserving in Denver

Dear Deserving: You've picked an interesting moment to ask. Merit increases at U.S. companies will average 3% this year, up very slightly from 2.7% in 2010, according to a survey of 381 employers by consultants Towers Watson. More good news: Salary freezes are fast fading into history, with only 5% of the companies that put pay on ice in 2010 still doing so this year.

"Most companies have turned the corner and are in a much stronger position financially to recognize and reward employees, especially their top performers," says Laura Sejen, global head of rewards consulting at Towers Watson. More

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