Tech workers: why 2019 might be the year to reassess your current salary

By Robert Half on 18 March 2019

Negotiating your salary - no matter what stage you’re in career-wise - is rarely an easy task, but it’s an important skill to learn.

While some companies offer regular reviews where salaries are adjusted based on annual appraisals, some companies may not review your current salary unless specifically requested.

The good news is that tech professionals based in Hong Kong are in a good starting position to negotiate their current salary based on the forecast market demands for 2019.

Skills shortage for tech specialists

As the Hong Kong government continues their push to become Asia’s leading smart city, the demand for data analysts and tech specialists is on the rise. The government’s Smart City Blueprint outlines its aim to foster innovation, and to become “a test bed for development.”

As a result, the start-up scene in Hong Kong is thriving, with the most popular sectors employing experts in fintech, healthcare and big data, and smart city and smart homes. Research and development within innovation and technology industries are expected to grow with major infrastructure support from the government.

Outside of innovation and technology, business analytics drove growth in the market in 2017 and 2018, and the trend is expected to continue into 2019. In particular, sales and marketing specialists have been working hand-in-hand with data analytics and data scientists to better understand their customers, and is just one example of how Hong Kong businesses are focusing on developing data-driven business strategies, and how tech specialists are adding value to businesses.

Rapid growth in cyber-security and software development

While technology in general is experiencing a skills shortage, massive growth has been seen specifically in cyber-security and software development as a result of China’s expansion into Hong Kong.

When it comes to cyber-security, the annual Telstra Security Report for 2018 by the Australian telecommunications company was not encouraging; Hong Kong respondents reported that 29% of security breaches aren’t detected for years, if ever. Though alarming, the report also revealed that the vast majority of companies surveyed would be increasing their security budgets in the near future, as organisations respond to the growing threat.

And this isn’t isolated to Hong Kong. Globally, in PwC’s 2018 Global State of Information Security Survey, less than half of the companies surveyed had adopted key processes to protect their data.

High demand for talented developers

The same rapid growth demand can be seen for talented software developers. According to Mark Burch of Stack Overflow, Hong Kong’s main pool of developers specialise in front-end or mobile engineering services, neglecting the back-end. Full-stack developers are in scarce supply, and are often snatched up by the major corporations.

As more Chinese companies expand into Hong Kong, and as a leading destination for foreign businesses looking for a way into Mainland China, Hong Kong’s demand for developers is also on the rise.

What does this all mean for you?

As companies across Hong Kong seek out talent in a jobseeker’s market, this puts the negotiating power in your hands. As in the basic tenet of supply and demand, this skills shortage increases your value as an IT professional.

If you feel your current salary does not reflect the value you bring to your company, it may be time to discuss this with your manager. Alternatively, if you’ve been thinking about looking for a new role, it may be time to start a job search or speak to a recruitment consultant.

Next steps: how to ask for a raise

Understanding your position in the market is the first step in making your case when asking for a raise. Having a plan in place when approaching your manager in order to discuss your case can make the difficult task much easier.

1. Do your market research

What is a reasonable amount to expect? It’s important to do your research. Robert Half’s Salary Guide is a valuable tool that will provide the average salary for your role/industry. It’s also worth reaching out to colleagues with similar roles (if the culture and relationship deem it appropriate) to get a more precise understanding of where your current salary fits in.

Remember that your salary isn’t limited to monetary compensation. Holiday packages, flexible working hours, and professional development is something to consider as part of your remuneration package, particularly if the pay increase you want is limited by budget.

2. Timing is everything

And 2019 is a great year to have this conversation with respect to the market demand. Set a date and time with your manager - an on-the-spot request for a review of your current salary is not always appropriate.

It would also be wise to consider how well the timing will reflect on your request. Have you recently received a positive performance review? Have you recently wrapped up a successful project? Think strategically.

3. Prove your case about your current salary

Think of this conversation as though you need to win over a client. Consider why they should invest in you. It’s all about the value you can bring, not why you want or need it. If you’ve got documentation to prove your point, even better.

4. Establish a time-frame

It would be unusual for your boss to give you an answer on the spot. End the meeting by asking when you can expect to receive a response.

As the demand for tech specialists becomes urgent in Hong Kong, so too does the leverage with which you can negotiate your current salary. Whether you’re approaching the job market looking for something new, or you’re feeling like you’ve reached a plateau in your current role, a job shortage like this puts the power back into the hands of the jobseeker.

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