As User Experience professionals we add a ton of value to the products and services that we design. Our insights can catapult a product or service into an entirely new revenue stream. In fact, have you ever sat back and really thought about how much revenue your new design idea is bringing to your client or organization? Some of our ideas can double or triple business!
Now that you have thought about how much money your ideas have made, stop and think about the percentage of that revenue that you are rewarded? Does your compensation in any way reflect the value that you bring? Furthermore, how much should our compensation reflect this value? I don’t think I have the “correct answer”, nor do I think there really is one. However, I would venture to guess that the majority of us are grossly underpaid considering the money we make for others.
I realize that this is a slippery slope to go down, but I’m going to do it anyway. There will be some of us out there that will say “Lis, it’s not about the money. It’s about the opportunity to come up with and express my creative ideas, as well as helping users.” I agree with this to a point, however if it wasn’t about money, then you wouldn’t be taking a salary at all but would be living off the “social” salary that your good deeds provide. But this argument is a different discussion all together (For more on this see: UX… It’s Time to Start Keeping It Real). What I’m talking about is getting justly compensated for making someone thousands and millions of dollars.
Now I’m not calling for an uproar or revolution. What I am proposing is thinking about how this might play into any discontent in your career, even subconsciously. Meaning… the feeling of being undervalued, under-appreciated, etc can actually come from knowing how much you bring and not getting enough in return. How do we solve this then? First thing first, know your value. I mean really know your value. Know what you bring to the table. Follow your designs down to the dollar sign as much as you can. Know the analytics behind your changes and understand how they have helped the company from a numbers perspective. For example, if you know that you are making design decisions that will increase the revenue of a product 2 times, based on analytics, accounting, etc, then question how you will be rewarded for such ideas. This is the business behind our business, and we have to tighten it up!
By knowing your value, and demanding to be compensated for it, you are doing several things. First, you are inserting yourself as not only a UX expert but a business expert who is a team player that demands respect. Think of the example of being a consultant who doubles their rates and sees their income triple (yes this has happened… unfortunately not to me, but maybe one day). Because they cost more and are confident in their value, their clients assume they are the better candidate and they get hired more often. This is the same for someone within an agency or in house. By demanding the respect (in this case financial) you’ve earned, you are moved up to the “serious business” category. Next, you will feel more appreciated and that will be reflected both in your work and your relationships with your co-workers. By removing the bitter feeling, you are enabling yourself to exploit your creativity as well as your communication skills. Thus, you will both feel better, and work better, and that can only be positive for our users, the people we are in this for after all… right?
Sure, we have to realize our value. But we also have to recognize that we are not the only people contributing to business value and thus not the only people that should get paid for that increase in revenue. The manager that made the decision to hire the UX professional in the first place and gave him or her the mandate, the developer that implemented it and the QA that tested it all contributed to business value.
I think we sometimes come across as a bit arrogant towards other competences. Actually, this makes others recognize our value less.
Great points! I agree that at times we come across as a bit arrogant, my point is not to force your value but to realize what it is and is not. Your points, I think, help to explain that. Yes, we are not the only ones on the team to come up with the ideas, so that value do we bring? Asking ourselves these questions and reflecting on the answers will help, I think, to instill more confidence in all of us and help decrease the arrogance.