Monday, December 24, 2012

Deliver more for a Raise

Writing about what we get paid or should get paid is a tough ask.  If I argue for a raise, I could be called unreal in tough times; if I argue about no raise, I could be called insensitive to my team; if I ask for a reduction, I am plain mad. Inspite of these risks, Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, has asked this question on his blog. It is possible he has been in a Christmas mood a bit too early. Jokes apart, talking about salary is sensitive and best avoided. But I will take the risk.
Our salaries increasingly depend on what quality function we manage and what outcomes we deliver. Also, how tough are we to replace? Demand and supply law of economics works almost everywhere, and I think it does perfectly well for us as well.
Firstly, I believe there is no longer a shortage of qualified (read certified) quality professionals and this reflects in stagnant wages for the last year. Black Belt certification is now a commodity and Lean is seen more as a sub-set of Six Sigma than a separate improved discipline. As a result, these certifications don’t automatically attract increased wages.
Second, most quality professionals don’t deliver enough value. I have written about this earlier and am convinced that many of us join the profession thinking it is an easy cushy job. And this hurts the entire community. I agree that the value we deliver is tough to identify – for example, multiple audits may still not reduce the risk of a big failure. I think each quality professional should be able to deliver value anywhere between five to ten times of his/her wages.
Assessing value for quality professionals is easier if you work in improvement. Most project benefits can be quantified and if this value is anywhere between five to ten times your wages – you are safe and can even expect a raise.  Life is tough for professionals in other quality functions. Auditing and Quality Control is no longer a domain of ‘only’ quality professional and this drives salaries down.
Finally, exclusivity and an impression of indispensability are critical to salary hikes.  If the skills and results you bring to the table are unique and much more than what anyone else will – you can expect a raise. Certifications alone won’t help if you don’t have a record of delivering on stretch goals.