More than half of company bosses are planning to freeze salaries this year, but skilled finance and accounting professionals are more likely to get a boost in pay.
The 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide, which surveyed 100 New Zealand chief financial officers (CFOs) in December, found 58 per cent were planning to freeze salaries this year, while just under half would freeze bonus levels as well.
In Australia, 52 per cent of CFOs were intending to freeze salaries.
However, those working in finance and accounting were more likely to be in for a pay rise, with 55 per cent of CFOs intended to raise those salaries this year.
The outlook was even better for finance professionals in Australia, where 67 per cent of CFOs were looking to increase finance and accounting salaries.
The report by recruiting firm Robert Half also showed finance and accounting skills were in strong demand.
Three quarters of CFOs said they couldn't find the skilled people they were looking for, and 79 per cent were somewhat or very concerned about losing their top talent.
Most were willing to negotiate salary with top candidates.
When it came to asking for a pay rise, technical competency or measurable results was the main factor leading to a pay rise, followed by willingness to learn or advance.
Loyalty to a company was valued more in New Zealand than Australia, but was still not likely to earn a bump in pay.
Company loyalty or tenure was a factor leading to a pay rise for just 9 per cent of managers in Australia and 17 per cent in New Zealand.
Robert Half NZ Manager Megan Alexander said it was unsurprising that employers were concerned about losing good staff.
"There is a skills shortage across the board, and particularly in the finance and accounting sector, right up to managerial positions," Ms Alexander said.
"What we've seen with the finance and accounting sector is a greater willingness to negotiate remuneration with top candidates than in previous years.
"Demonstrating strong technical competency or showing measurable results is the most effective way of getting a pay rise.
The survey also showed an increasing focus on work life balance, which Ms Alexander said reflected increasing employee confidence as the New Zealand economy moves on from the Global Financial Crisis.
Better work life balance was equal with remuneration as the main reasons workers leave jobs.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Bill Newson said New Zealand workers had always been told that when the economy worked well there was a "trickle-down" effect that would reflect in their pay packets.
"We've been preached to about our rockstar economy for the last couple of years but we are yet to see a fair return of that for ordinary wage earners."
It was "a bit rich" to hear businesses now saying they were tightening their belts, Mr Newson said.
First Union general secretary Robert Reid said unions would be "vigorously" pursuing wage increases this year.
"I would also remind CFOs that their HR departments have the obligation to negotiate in good faith and not with the pre-determined position and we would expect that to happen as well."
Planning to ask the boss for a payrise this year? Plan ahead, know what you're worth, and be prepared to negotiate, says Robert Half New Zealand general manager Megan Alexander.
Ms Alexander's six tips for asking for more money start with timing: think about whether the company's doing well, and whether you've been in the role long enough to prove your worth.
Secondly, know why you're worth it. "You need to establish what you've done to add value to your company and how you are going to continue and improve on that to justify more money," she said.
Set a time and let the boss know you want to discuss a payrise.
During the discussion, be polite and respectful but set the agenda. "Start by thanking them for being willing to see you and state straight away that you are here to talk about how you can get a pay rise."
Be prepared to negotiate, without sulking if it doesn't go your way. "Go in knowing the figure you'd really like and what you are prepared to accept," Ms says.
Finally, leave on a positive whatever the outcome. If successful, promise to deliver value on their money. "If you didn't, ask them why and what you need to do to get a yes next time."