How to negotiate a salary in the equine industry
for Employers and Grooms
by Caroline Carter
There are of course many factors which influence the longevity and success of any working relationship. Between grooms and employers, none of these are more hotly debated these days than that of grooms’ salary and the general package. You don’t have to look too hard on social media to see the disgruntled outpourings and every day I have conversations which clearly demonstrate much is still left to be done for this situation to become resolved.
I don’t pretend to have an answer as to how we raise the income levels of this particular sector, (which is in many ways is similar to many of the “caring professions”) but I believe how and when the topic of salary and terms is covered within the whole interviewing process, if addressed, could have a positive impact on the longer term security of those involved and maybe even the future of our industry!
Understandably, many grooms and employers find discussing salaries uncomfortable and sometimes even downright embarrassing pre, during or even once employed. It is often considered a little well, frankly a little unBritish!
This is most unfortunate for us all, as the best outcomes require negotiations which are active with frank participation and engagement to ensure an undisputed best outcome.
If the results of such discussion aren’t truly to both parties liking, it can leave stones unturned and a groom, for instance, might agree to a wage they can’t live on, or an employer might offer a wage they can’t sustain. Unwittingly both parties have already set themselves up for a lose:lose outcome. Sadly, all too often an outcome such as this, left to its own devices:
- Stops things moving ahead initially
- Sabotages the success and longevity of a new arrangement
- Comes back to bite both parties on the posterior down the road!
All of this puts us all into a negative cycle time and time again until it is addressed. That’s why it’s worth getting this critical element of interviewing right soonest, even if it can be a bit excruciating on occasions.
If you really do find it all too difficult do get in touch with us, we are happy to have a chat with you about it. We routinely negotiate on behalf of grooms and employers. Mostly, we get very satisfactory results for both parties, after all, we all have a vested interest in making happy long term “matches”.
WIN:WIN Negotiating for Grooms and Employers
There are definite ground rules to share for those without time to waste and those wanting better employment outcomes for the long term:
- Before you get into an interview situation, decide what salary you want to earn and what you are willing to settle at. Know exactly what your current pay is gross/net so you don’t inadvertently agree to earn less! Don’t be frightened to politely state this to prospective Employers, it will help them to move things forward with you one way or another.
- Confirm the salary/benefits BEFORE going for an interview, don’t waste your time/potential Employers time pursuing something, unless it is within your pre-set range.
- Discuss these matters gently making sure it is in the context of discussing your interest in and suitability for the role in question. It would be a shame to handle it badly and for it to be misconstrued, but don’t shirk from it unless you have days of your life to waste going up and down the country to interviews !
- Be clear on the hours:wage ratio and mindful of National Minimum Wage: www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates
- Know your worth! Find out what is a competitive “ask” for the type and level of job you are applying for vs your level of experience.
- If in doubt please contact us for a chat about it.
- Be clear on what extras are and are not included
- Ensure all the points agreed are in writing soonest via an employment contract or a “written statement of particulars of employment” within the first two months of employment. The sooner this gets done though the better both parties will feel and the more secure your commitment to each other.
- Be clear on what you can afford to pay and offer as benefits & ensure it is sustainable for you
- Know what you pay your current Groom gross/net (double check this is not the reason they are leaving!)
- Keep up to date with National Minimum Wage requirements and other permissible deductions e.g: the Accommodation Offset Rate.
- Take advice on what is a competitive offering for the type and level of job and factor in the experience level of those you are interviewing. If in doubt please contact us for a chat about it.
- Be clear on what extras are and as importantly, are not going to be included and be clear on this.
- Consider and accept that when a Groom asks up front, (even before an interview) about salary and terms, it is more often than not within a wider context and doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t be suitable for or genuinely interested in your vacancy. Confirming the salary/benefits BEFORE a potential employee comes for an interview, can demonstrate professional maturity and let’s face it, saves wasting your time/their time. If you are truly negotiable then well and good, but it would still be wise to quote a lower/upper range and what the criteria are for achieving the upper level.
- Once a job offer is on the table, put it all in writing promptly so both parties are crystal clear. The sooner this gets done though the better both parties will feel and the more secure your commitment to each other.
- Once employed, do supply an employment contract or at least a “written statement of particulars of employment” which by law is required within 2 months of commencement of employment. The Equestrian Employers Association (EEA) has a template for Grooms and Apprentices available online: britishgrooms.org.uk/bga-contract-creator.
Some TOP TIPS for negotiating…
1. Do your homework
BEFORE you pitch up for your interview/job trial (or worse still, to start the job!) make sure you know the salary and the rest of the package that is on offer. People who consistently leave money on the table often fail to establish the facts.
2. Don’t be afraid to speak plainly and don’t be scared to ask and or state your requirements!
Be assertive and express your feelings, but try to do it without anxiety or any aggression. Let your potential employer/groom know what you want and what you are prepared/not prepared to offer in a non-threatening way. I say this as most of us are aware there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive but when we are uncomfortable in a situation or nervous the lines of these differences can be blurred and somewhat unsubtle. Keep at the forefront of your mind, being assertive means you take care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. When you see to your own interests with a lack of regard for other people’s interests, you are aggressive. In other words take time to find out and clarify what the other party wants and needs i.e. REALLY wants and needs to make it work for them, and strike a balance.
3. Listen and don’t be in a hurry
During interviews, as we know and previously stated, people get nervous and sometimes can’t stop talking. Good negotiators are detectives. They ask probing questions and then shut up. The other person will tell you everything you need to know – all you have to do is listen. Follow the 70/30 Rule – listen 70 percent of the time and talk only 30 percent of the time. Often whoever is more flexible about time, and is not in a rush, has the advantage. I have recently heard of a groom travelling 3 hours for a 15 minute interview before now and that included a job offer! Needless to say the employer lost out but didn’t really understand why for a little while.
4. Always be willing to walk away
Finally, if you are not desperate and you can be mindful of the nightmare scenarios that can ensue if you accept a lose:win outcome in your negotiations – if you recognize that you have other options – the other “negotiator” will sense your inner strength. Don’t get yourself backed into a corner!
Following these basics can make all the difference in securing a long-term happy, healthy and successful outcome for both parties. As a very experienced recruiter, I inevitably spend more of my time hearing about negotiations that end up with one party feeling that they gave more than they got, and helping to ensure this doesn’t happen again. That being said, it is undoubtedly very difficult finding good grooms these days and it pays to approach interviews with some level of thought and preparation. If you keep losing out also, it is worth investigating why that might be. For grooms, there are still many roles where you can be left feeling undervalued and living a very compromised existence; for both parties though, it doesn’t have to be this way. Time to do things differently. Time to use The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment!