Closed plants and shrinking payrolls, along with recovering corporate profits, have allowed many companies to stockpile cash in record amounts. In February, President Obama cited a figure of almost $2 trillion cash and liquid assets sitting in American businesses' coffers. If you're lucky enough to have a job, is this the time to ask for a raise?
Well, that depends. A study released in August by Towers Watson, a human resources consulting firm based in New York, offered standout employees good news: Companies are planning average pay increases of 4.5 percent in 2012 for salaried non-executive employees with high performance reviews.
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Employees who get average reviews, meanwhile, are looking at increases 2 percentage points lower. "The recession has allowed certain employees to shine and has let management see who the real value creators are," says Michael Cavendish, a lawyer in Jacksonville, Fla., who is part of the management team that decides raises and bonuses at his firm.
So this may be a value creator's window of opportunity. If you decide to make your case, human resources experts recommend providing your boss concrete examples, with documentation, of how you have saved the company money or increased revenues, and the ways you have volunteered to step in to shoulder new responsibilities as the company has shed staff. Alan Guinn, an HR consultant based in Bristol, Tenn., suggests being prepared to "define your competency and quantify the value you bring to the company" in 500 words or less.
Getting extra compensation is most likely if you time your move carefully, notes Cavendish. It's probably better to speak up while you're basking in congratulations after a major accomplishment than on the day after the company posts a huge loss.