Personal Finance

Companies plan bigger raises in 2019. Here's how to get yours

Key Points
  • The average salary increase next year is slated to be slightly higher at 3.1 percent, according to new data from advisory firm Willis Towers Watson. 
  • Employees receiving the highest possible rating this year were given salary raises an average 70 percent higher than workers rated as average. 
  • Fewer companies plan to freeze salaries next year.
Group of business people talking and laughing, in large glass conference room, at sunset
Klaus Vedfelt | Taxi | Getty Images

Next year's raise — if you get one — could be slightly bigger.

A record low unemployment rate and tighter job market is making employers more generous, especially for top performers, according to risk management, insurance brokerage and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson.

Between April and July, Willis Towers Watson surveyed 814 companies in a range of industries, for their outlook on salaries and projected bonus increases.

The key is the performance review.

The real winners will be performance review stars, who will be rewarded with top pay raises. Employees receiving the highest possible ratings got the biggest raises — about 70 percent more than the raises given workers with average ratings.

Not just for the C-suite

The money is not just going to upper management.

It's dawning on companies that employees are more willing to change jobs for career advancement and extra money.

Going into the new year, organizations are under pressure to use compensation dollars strategically — "or risk losing some of their best talent," said Sandra McLellan, North America rewards business leader at Willis Towers Watson.

In response, companies are planning slightly smaller awards to executives and slightly larger amounts to other groups of employees.

Rating boosts

Special projects or one-time achievements are two ways to snag a discretionary bonus.

Companies forecast these awards will be slightly larger than this year's amounts, at an average of 5.9 percent of salary, the survey found.

Annual performance bonuses, tied to company and employee performance goals, will likely stay the same or dip slightly for most workers in 2019.

Smart ways to use your bonus to get ahead