2007 Job Satisfaction and Salary Survey Results

Our first salary survey elicits an overwhelming response. We've digested the results to reveal the facts and figures on money, stress and a good amount of job satisfaction.

By David Feder, Managing Editor

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Our first salary survey is about more than just the money. The survey also offered us a look at how you like your jobs and what you expect from your companies, your bosses and yourselves. You overwhelmed us with your responsiveness! In all, 1,790 food industry professionals took the web-based survey, sharing with us (and our 65,000 readers) information so private you probably don't even share it with your coworkers.

Although most workers declared themselves to be at least "somewhat" satisfied with their jobs, a quarter of respondents openly expressed their complaints. Some of those words should serve as harsh warnings to those at the top. Nearly every complaint included a pay gripe, and lack of respect showed up often.

Food processing pay vs. everybody else
The Department of Labor reports the average hourly earnings of production workers in food manufacturing were $13.48 as of April this year. That's only about 78 percent of the average of $17.20 for nonsupervisory production workers in much of private industry, although the range runs from $10.75/hr. for the apparel industry to a few pennies shy of $30 for auto workers.

One other recurring theme emerged: More work is being dumped onto fewer people. As one commenter indicated, that's when quality suffers and leads to the beginning of the end.

The juicy part

Let's get right to it: what you and your colleagues make annually. Respondents to our survey fall into a sort of double-bell curve. Overall, 14 percent average $36,000-$50,000 per year, 21 percent average $51,000-$65,000 and 23 percent average $66,000-$85,000. There's a dip at $86,000-$100,000, then the second curve swells with the swells, with 21 percent averaging $101,000-$500,000 per year.

Taking each job category individually, Corporate Management is, unsurprisingly, the best compensated group: their mean is $164,348 and the median is in the $86,000-$100,000 range (two respondents who make more than half a million bucks a year skew the computations). Those in corporate management also self-identify predominantly as Caucasian (91 percent) and male (73 percent).

The Marketing/Sales squad came out second, although they also had the biggest variations in income. While the mean was $138,983, this group also had three people making less than $15,000 -- and 47 making more than $100,000 (but no one making more than $500,000). Their median was right at $85,000. They're better represented across the sexes, with 36 percent female. Also mostly Caucasian (87 percent), they've done their homework -- more than three quarters of this group have college degrees, 22 percent beyond a bachelor's level.

Next was the R&D crowd, with $119,404 being the mean and the median being in the $66,000-$85,000 range. Interestingly, there were just as many lab coats making above $100,000 (79) as in that median range. This group is both the best educated, with 90 percent college-degreed (12.5 percent with doctorates), and the most evenly represented across gender, at 59 percent male and 41 percent female. The Plant Ops/Engineering posse, nearly all male (90 percent) and Caucasian (85 percent), report compensation that averages $102,316. Their median also is $66,000-$85,000.

Purchasing agents are at the bottom(our apologies), with average compensation at $83,563, but the median being only about $51,000. This could be a function of education level -- only a little more than half (55 percent) have college degrees. Thirty percent are women. Purchasers are the most heavily imbalanced when it comes to race - 95 percent label themselves as Caucasian.

However, there was a large group (283 respondents) of "others," who defied our five main job classifications and averaged just $75,081 with a median income in the $51,000-$65,000 range.

The perks

A roller-coaster economy, a shrinking middle class and the demise of the single-income path to prosperity means a job has to offer much more than an annual salary. The good news is, most processors offer more. Not always much more, but at least more.

Nearly eight in 10 respondents get a raise every year. For two-thirds, it's only 1-3 percent of their salary. "The 1-3 percent annually we get doesn't even keep up with inflation, so I'm actually losing ground," says one plant ops engineer for a Midwestern confectionary company. "So, technically I haven't received an actual raise in 8 years. I am living proof of salary compaction."

Just above the cost of living adjustment line are the 28 percent who receive a 4-6 percent raise. But two-thirds also receive a bonus or profit-sharing -- though not much. Sixty percent of this segment gets just 1-9 percent of salary. Nearly 30 percent get 10-20 percent over their salary this way. More than 10 percent add the equivalent of 21-50 percent or more to the top via bonuses and profit sharing.

Whereas a quarter of processors get the typical (though paltry) U.S. standard of two weeks paid vacation, most of you -- 60 percent -- are taking off for three to four weeks. Envious of the 13 percent who are hitting the beaches or ski slopes for a cushy five to six weeks? Then ask the 11 survey-takers getting more than six weeks paid vacation if there are any openings at their companies!

More than nine in 10 have paid medical benefits of some sort, and more than 80 percent get dental. Better than 78 percent get both life insurance and a 401(k) match.

On the other hand, some perquisites are not as readily handed out. Stock options are reported by only 18 percent of you, a company car by 8.5 percent and flex time by 15 percent. Profit sharing fared a little better, going to 21 percent. One-third get a pension and 43 percent can go back to school on the company's dime.

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