Not everyone is equipped to reach the executive level in a business — but you are. Finally, you have obtained an offer for a high-level management position, and you are thrilled at the opportunity to work on big-picture projects. There is just one challenge: You need to make sure you are being compensated fairly.
Just because you are operating at the executive level doesn’t automatically mean you are earning an executive-level salary and perks. You might need to take some extra steps before, during and after the hiring process to ensure you are getting what you are worth.
Negotiating at the executive level requires more tact and skill than negotiating salary and benefits for other jobs. Here is a guide to help get your first executive compensation package right.
Practice Executive Negotiation Strategies
Negotiating at the executive level requires more skill than “be articulate” and “think positively.” You might consider enrolling in an online executive education program focusing on practical skills and theoretical knowledge to effectively negotiate in any situation, so you can better understand the give-and-take that will be involved in your first major executive negotiation. Even if you are experienced at executive level negotiations, you should bolster your strategic communication skills before you transition to a new organization or role.
Determine Your Salary Range
Before you start negotiating, you need to be firm in your expectations, especially when it comes to your salary. You should think critically about the minimum pay you are willing to receive and the maximum pay you believe your knowledge and skills to be worth. To calculate your salary range, you should analyze salaries of positions similar to yours and factor in the value of your expertise.
You should also factor in the organization’s compensation policy — for example, if they limit executive pay to afford higher salaries for the greater workforce or if they try to match the market as much as possible. You can talk to the company’s HR department to get a better sense of the corporate culture.
Let Your Organization Make the First Offer
If you are the first to state what you hope for in terms of compensation, you will be limited by that initial figure. In contrast, if the company makes the first offer, you develop a better understanding of their position, and you gain stronger leverage in your negotiations. It can be beneficial to counter a request for your preferred compensation package with a request for their initial offer.
Ask for Non-Salary Compensation
As an executive, you will likely have access to new and exciting perks that lower-level employees do not. However, if you don’t know what these perks are, you won’t know how to negotiate for them. Some common executive perks that might be available to you include:
- Annual incentive
- Association memberships
- Company stock options
- Company vehicles
- Education funding
- Financial advising
- Insurance packages
- Legal representation
- Loan forgiveness
- Relocation compensation
- Signing bonus
- Wardrobe stipend
- Severance package
Not all organizations offer all these perks to executives, but if one or more of these perks are important to you, it doesn’t hurt to inquire about them during negotiation. You might be able to gain access to a perk that no other executive at your company has.
Obtain Your Agreement in Writing
As soon as you reach an agreement regarding your compensation package, you need to secure a copy. It is easy for a company to nod and shake your hand; it is much more difficult for them to deliver on their promises, especially if you were able to negotiate strongly in your favor. Bear in mind that situations do arise where an employer has to obtain clearance or approval from the leadership team or board on negotiations — ensure you do not agree to anything until there is clarity around what can be offered.
Few people reach the executive level without fully earning it. You probably have the knowledge and skill for the c-suite — and it is high time you negotiate yourself the compensation you deserve.