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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The Bureau of Labor Statistics records "the average weekly hours of production workers in manufacturing was 41.1 in 2006, well above the private industry average of 33.9 for production and nonsupervisory workers." This ties in closely with the average in our survey: 56 percent of respondents report they work 41-50 hours per week.

Who you are

Demographics can always generate intriguing thoughts. Two-thirds to three-quarters of respondents in all positions but two are male (typical of the national workforce overall). Plant Ops is by far the most male-dominated, at more than 90 percent. But for the lab coat set, the numbers moved nearer to half and half, with 59 percent male and 41 percent female.

The food and beverage manufacturing business also is somewhat monochromatic: 85 percent designated themselves as Caucasian. Although this is only 5 percent more than the national average (U.S. Census Bureau 2006 estimates), the number of respondents identifying themselves as Latin/Hispanic/First Nations was less than 4 percent compared to the national average of more than 15 percent. For those identifying themselves as African American, the numbers were about the same, that is, one-third of the population average with 3 percent in food manufacturing compared to almost 13 percent in the U.S. as a whole.

Over half of respondents were aged 30-49; more than a third fell in the 50-64 grouping. Four in ten are situated in the Midwest suburbs, 35 percent are urban dwellers scattered mostly among the New England/Middle Atlantic states, the South and the Southwest.

Folks in the food biz are a well-educated lot, with all but 15 percent having at least some college education. In fact, more than a third -- 34 percent -- went to college beyond a bachelor's degree. Your experience in the food business is long as well, with more than a quarter in processing or related fields for 6-14 years. An additional 50 percent have 15-34 years and 6.5 percent have put in more than 35 years. Very impressive!

One surprising factor to emerge is the number of folks working for large corporations. In a business where boutique food and beverage products are taking a growing chunk of the American dollar, nearly a quarter of you still work for "the big guys," companies with 5,000 or more workers. Only 13 percent work for companies with staffs of 100 or fewer.

I love my job

Sometimes, the best approach is the direct one. So we asked outright how you like your job. And two-thirds of you do - 68 percent say you're either somewhat or very satisfied. This is better than the national average. According to The Conference Board Inc. (www.conference-board.org), fewer than half of Americans claim to be satisfied with their jobs. The group says job satisfaction has been on a steady decline for 20 years.

The organization's most recent survey showed "Satisfaction levels among all workers, regardless of age, income or even residence, have deteriorated in recent years," writes Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board. The survey also found the older and better compensated a worker is, the higher the job satisfaction -- although not by much.

So, salary and benefits aside, what makes you keep coming back to your job (or has you surfing Monster.com during your lunch hour)? Surprisingly, least important to respondents is a low-stress environment. Looks as if only 3 percent of you can't stand the heat in the kitchen. But also, salary itself wasn't as important either. Only 23 percent see that as the most important part of their jobs.

Comments from respondents show job satisfaction is a holistic thing. And giant companies fared as well as small ones in providing satisfaction. "I took a pay cut to come and work for my company and it has been worth it," says Anne Troup, a quality assurance lab technician for Cargill Salt Inc. "I was under constant stress at a previous job and would get physically ill at the thought of going to work. Since working here, I feel as if I work for a family, and even though this company is much larger, the people in charge have hearts and souls."

Positive comments focused predominantly on things other than money. This remark by an R&D expert for a large, national grain foods development company is typical of the job environment kudos: "Great group of people who support others to full extent. Company is committed to growth and doing so effectively."

Other examples include: "sense of belonging," "challenging work," "less stress, great working environment, good people," "appreciation, job security, opportunity for advancement" and "good work environment, close to home, management is fair and reasonable." In fact, "good" and "hands-off" management is the most common thread running through the positive job satisfaction comments.

One Kraft worker comments that hers "is a great place to work. The people are very helpful and are eager to aid you in career development if you reach out. Work continues to challenge me and this is important. I am not intimidated by my job because I have so much help."

Learning and growth play well too. Companies with positive and proactive approaches to training for promotion are lauded by respondents. "I work for a company that is great about training and certifications," says Cargill's Troup. "If there is a class I feel would improve my worth to the company, they are behind me 100 percent and give me the time and financial assistance to get the training I need."

A woman at a small beverage processor finds her work "very dynamic when I have the ability to wear more than one hat. It's challenging, fun to learn other areas of beverage development, such as application, purchasing, logistics and manufacturing."

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