Job Satisfaction High in a Year of Uncertainty

A small surprise in our annual salary survey is how well you like your job.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor-in-Chief

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See the results of this year's Job Satisfaction and Salary Survey

After the year we’ve just been through and the year we’re halfway through, what would you expect the results of a salary and job satisfaction survey?

We were not too surprised that the bottom-line figure of $95,226 for the “average” salary in the food industry was down 8.5 percent from last year, although we don’t want to make too much of that comparison (caveats to follow). What was surprising is the level of job satisfaction. In a year of layoffs, an apparent recession and several black eyes for the food industry, job satisfaction inched up nearly 2.5 percentage points. Contrast that, however, with a 10 percent increase in job insecurity – more than 45 percent of workers are worried about how long they’ll have their current job. First, let me point out the caveats to that “average” food industry salary.

Sure, mathematically that $95,226 is an average, but it’s problematic to average the paychecks of CEOs, food technologists and production line workers – although we do report those category salary figures individually in our report. We also make no effort to separate employees in dairy from those in frozen foods from those making salty snacks or carbonated soft drinks. More importantly, we reconfigured the salary levels in this year’s survey. We found we had too many respondents in the overly broad “$101,000-$500,000” category last year – 21 percent of all respondents, to be precise. We broke that category into four smaller ones plus a $501,000-plus category (which netted only two respondents), which should bring down the average salary.

Interestingly, 25 percent of respondents were in the $101,000-$200,000 category this year, so we have a pretty well-compensated readership! Actually, the largest single segment last year (24 percent) was in the $66,000-$85,000 category, while this year’s largest segment was the aforementioned 25 percent in the $101,000-$200,000 category. Anyway, all those qualifiers make comparisons to last year’s “average” salary unfair. Perhaps more interesting are the comments.

Positive comments outnumbered complaints by 2.5 to one. Three of the most uplifting, which we included in our print report, were:

  • “I enjoy producing and maintaining a quality product our customers need and want, making us a leader in our industry.”
  • “I thrive on helping develop new products to maintain our competitive edge.”
  • “As a Quality Control supervisor, I enjoy the work I do and take pride in the fact we produce very healthy and safe products for consumers.”

But counter those with:

  • “There is a tuition reimbursement benefit, but there is very little time to take advantage of it. The staffing is too barebones to be most effective.”
  • “Cost of benefits goes up most every year. Pension was frozen five years ago. Company is much more conservative with raises/bonuses now.”

All that is a way of saying this salary survey, in just its second year, is one of the most fun, most enlightening features we do every year. Anytime you get a response of nearly 2,000 people to a survey, you’ve obviously hit a nerve. 

Time for the Top 100, Processor of the Year

As we head into the latter half of the year, two of our biggest projects loom. For both, we depend upon your input to make them great. We’re finishing up research on our annual Top 100© list of the largest food and beverage manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada (See the 2007 list here). It’s the only such list to include all categories of the food industry. But our figures include only processed/value-added products and only those manufactured in the U.S. and Canada. If your company did not make last year’s list or if your figures were incorrect, send me an e-mail. That’s our August cover story.

Our December cover story is our Processor of the Year. Any food or beverage processor is eligible. Nominate a company you think deserves the honor via the poll on our web site. And don’t be shy: You can nominate your own company.

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