Over one quarter of Singaporeans expect their salary to rise by less than 3 per cent in their next review, according to a recent Hays survey.

In the survey of 526 Singaporeans, 28 per cent said they expect their salary to increase less than 3 per cent, 31 per cent expect an increase between 3 and 6 per cent, and 41 per cent expect an increase above 6 per cent.

Recruitment specialist Hays conducted the survey across the Asia-Pacific. The most positive salary expectations exist in Hong Kong, where 45 per cent of people surveyed expect an increase above 6 per cent. This is followed by Singapore (41 per cent), Australia (35 per cent) and New Zealand (26 per cent).

But employer expectations are not aligned. According to the 2011 Hays Salary Guide, 62 per cent of employers in Singapore intend to increase salaries in their next review by between 3 and 6 per cent, while 20 per cent will offer increases above 6 per cent. But 18 percent intend to increase salaries by less than 3 per cent.

Overall, these intentions are at odds with candidates’ expectations — particularly those of whose jobs are in demand — and so Hays expects the gap between salary expectations in all of the pay ranges to widen even further.

So, where do these widening expectations stem from? While there is always a gap between employee and employer pay rise expectations, this can be attributed to  much of the current widening expectations to Singapore’s low unemployment and increased job vacancies following economic improvement after the global financial crisis.

During the economic downturn, many businesses were affected and employee pay freezes became almost standard practice worldwide. Those pay freezes were widely accepted by most employees, but as the market picked up again and with the severe skills shortages being felt in key industries and sectors as a result, candidates hoped to make up for the lack of pay increases during the downturn.

However, many employers are still limited by their budgets to more moderate pay rises that evidently won’t match the expectations of many current and potential employees. Hays believes this will be the case for some time.

Better perks

So employers won’t be swayed by the expectations of employees and job seekers.

Instead of offering widespread salary increases, many employers are choosing to review employee benefits to help them attract and retain staff. They are also quick to discuss potential career paths with their high achievers and offer training and development. Work-life balance improvements are also being used as alternatives to large salary increases.

If you are approaching your next salary review, Hays offers this advice to help you maximise your chances of getting your desired increase:

* Prepare a list of your recent achievements that exceed your objectives. If this is your first review, look back at your original job description. List the resulting benefit to the company. This gives you strong evidence to support the value you are providing to the business.

* Also, list any changed or increased work volumes or duties you are now undertaking.

* Be realistic. State the salary you feel your performance and results are worth, and back it up with evidence from a Salary Guide to show it is in line with current market rates.

* Keep your salary review discussion professional. Stay calm and focused. Do not become emotional and do not talk of how much money you need — for example, as a result of rising bills or mortgage repayments.

* Have a fall-back position. If your employer cannot afford to increase your salary, decide on a date for another pay review in three or six months. What about additional annual leave, study or other benefits?

* Highlight your value. Above all, use your accomplishments and the value you add to the organisation as the basis of your negotiation. In this way, you will clearly demonstrate your worth and will be in a stronger position to secure the maximum salary increase on offer.