This week’s Twitter and news feeds in Australia are bursting with commentary on the news of highly respected journalist and TV presenter, Lisa Wilkinson’s departure from her employer at Nine, reportedly over salary negotiations, and her subsequent swift appointment by rival Network Ten. I’m mindful as I write, this blog is based on reports – none of which have come directly from Lisa. We can only imagine some of the conversations. From what we do know, there are lessons here, particularly for women, about salary negotiation and gender pay equality.

Most of us are employed in roles with far less profile and salary – but the lessons remain the same. We have drawn from our Sageco experts’ advice and the RiseSmart resources vault to provide some top tips on salary negotiation.

1 Lisa Wilkinson had the data and knew her numbers

Before you negotiate your salary, you need to have evidence of the typical salary range for that role is in the market. Preparation and research are the keys to knowing where you stand and what you’re worth to an employer. There are plenty of places where you can go to get an idea of what people in your industry, and with your experience level, receive in compensation.

Begin your research by looking in a few of these places:

  • Recruiters – ask recruiters you know or ones who have contacted you in the past to share the typical salary ranges for your industry.
  • Employer review sites – places like  GlassdoorPayscale and GetRaised are good places to find salary ranges by role and geography.
  • Salary surveys – check out annual salary survey data published by various recruitment organisations. LiveSalary is a specialist salary exchange website with real-time salaries submitted by real-time people.
  • Networking – check in with people in your professional networks, schedule informational interviews, and ask around. As long as you aren’t asking for personal information, most people are willing to share.

Once you have salary data in hand, you’ll need to decide where you fit in the continuum. What is your ‘happy dance’ number? This is your high-end number that you would be so thrilled to achieve that you will feel compelled to do a happy dance once the offer is final. If your happy dance number is near the top of the spectrum, you’ll want to be able to make a business case for requesting more than the average salary for your role.

What is your walk away number? This is your absolute lowest, but still fair number at the bottom of your range. Anything less than this number, you would need to walk away or negotiate some other parts of your package to increase the value of the offer.

2 Lisa Wilkinson knows her worth

In commercial television, revenue and ratings matter. There is strong evidence that Lisa Wilkinson could easily prove her impact on the bottom line and the benefits she brought to the Nine network. To negotiate a salary successfully, you need to support your request with actual statistics and measurable benchmarks that demonstrate how you affected change, improved a team, and added value to an organisation.

The tone of the conversation is as important as the content. Make the conversation collaborative and listen to what the hiring manager or recruiter is saying about the position and the salary range they’ve set for the person filling the role. An ultimatum doesn’t always work (though in Lisa’s case it did). In the end, you want the salary negotiation number to be a win-win.

Importantly, Lisa knew that her male colleague doing ostensibly the same role was paid 55% more than her. She stood by her gender pay equity principles in her negotiations and determined her walk away figure using that powerful piece of data.

3 Lisa Wilkinson managed her counter-offer well

Within the hour of her departure announcement from Nine, Lisa’s new role at Network Ten hit the wire. In her words, she was thrilled.

Counter offers can come out of the blue. Do you take it? Do you use the offer to leverage your current employer? Before you make a move, you have some decisions to make. First, ask yourself if you love your current job and employer. Do you have a purpose and feel satisfied with your daily work? Would you be willing to give all that up for more money?

Sometimes the value of our jobs exceeds the salary we receive for doing them. That’s not to say that you should stay in a position where you are far under-compensated for your contribution without approaching your manager for a raise. However, before you approach your current employer with an offer from another employer, take inventory of your current position, including:

  • How is your relationship with your employer?
  • Have you built trust?
  • Are you a valued employee – are you sure?
  • What will it take to make you stay?
  • Are you ready to leave if your employer wishes you well without a counter-offer?

Entering into salary negotiations, whether with a potential employer or a current one requires planning and preparation. Never enter into a conversation about salary until you have done your research and you’ve conducted a personal inventory of what types of compensation will make you the happiest.

4  More tips for salary negotiation

As we said, Lisa Wilkinson’s salary negotiation is not typical of the average employee. In Sageco’s experience, salary negotiation is one area where most job seekers feel ill-equipped and nervous about the conversation.

One of the hardest things to deal with is when a recruiter or a future employer asks you about your current salary. This is usually asked with the intent of not wasting your time if the salary of the role you are seeking is not going to match expectations.

However, it’s important for your success to reframe that question to your advantage. The strategy in every response below is to always lead with appreciation first, and then redirect the question with a question:

  • Thank you for asking. I’d like to discuss the details of the jobs first, so I can understand exactly what you need.
  • I appreciate you asking. This role is not exactly like my last one (or current one). I’d like to understand what my roles and responsibilities would be here and then we can determine a fair salary for this job based on the market rate.
  • Thank you for bringing this up. I’m most interested in finding a job where I’m a good fit and can make a positive impact. I’m confident that whatever salary you’re paying is consistent with the rest of the market.
  • Thanks for asking. I’m looking for a position that matches my experience and abilities and pays a fair market rate for those skills.
  • Thank you for asking. Can you tell me the salary range that you’ve set for this role? I will be happy to let you know if we are in the same ballpark.

5 More tips for women on salary negotiation

Sageco’s National Director, Alison Monroe, is a WGEA Pay Equity ambassador with extensive experience in career transition. Next week, she is thrilled to be part of a panel on future proofing your career at the Women in Media conference in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

Her top five tips are:

  • Know your worth – do your research and understand pay equity
  • Find out the value placed on the role before you disclose your expectations – otherwise, you can be shortchanged
  • Be prepared to negotiate on areas other than base pay eg benefits, annual leave, bonuses or commissions, flexible work
  • Ensure you have clear and quantifiable KPI’s attached to the role so that when you prove yourself, you have data to back your negotiation
  • Get expert advice from a career coach who can guide you in this essential area.

Professional women can leave $1M on the table throughout their career life course due to the pay gap – what can YOU do to close it?

Read RiseSmart’s original blog on salary negotiation for further tips.

Sageco is a RiseSmart company and will be known as RiseSmart Australia from 2018.