2011 Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey: Food Processors are Bringing Home the Bacon

Our fifth annual Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey finds salaries at 2009 levels – and that's an improvement.

By David Feder, R.D, Technical Editor

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Bottom line on the bottom line
So here's the money shot. The biggest percentage of respondents reporting their salary — 31 percent — are in the $101,000-200,000 category. This is almost twice as many as in the next largest category, $66,000-85,000. Seven respondents made more than $501,000 last year.

When we ask about salary, we ask for all compensation: salary, bonuses, stock options and other cash perks.

Almost two thirds of those polled in this survey reported getting a raise every year, and the actual numbers reporting a raise last year hit 77 percent. Of those getting a raise in 2010, 70 percent got a mere 1-3 percent. (Thirteen hardworking and/or fortunate processors reported getting raises above 16 percent of their salary.) More than two-thirds got a bonus, incentive or profit-sharing last year.

In previous surveys, we learned of salary cuts, but never quantified them. Now, maybe we're too late. We asked this year if respondents had their pay cut in 2010 specifically, and only 12 percent did. And of those 118 who did get a reduction, exactly half were in the range of 1-5 percent.

On the other hand, we also asked "If you took a pay cut in the past few years, has it been restored?" Eighteen percent said they had experienced a reduction, and 57 percent of those said it had not been restored at all; 20 percent said it was partially restored.

In addition to salary give-backs, diminishing headcount – meaning those remaining on the job had to do more – was a common complaint in questions that asked for comments.

"Not enough personnel for amount of work to be done," was a common complaint. "Ridiculous deadlines that cannot be met by a human being; more work than one person can do." "More work and responsibilities without the staff to support." "I keep getting promises that I will be given more people in my area, but this never happens."

This increase in workload results in a loss of personal time – 44 percent did not use all their vacation time last year.

Another common complaint was the use of less-experienced – and, we assume lower-paid – workers. "Instead of promoting employees who are qualified to assume the roles left by departing mangers, our company brought in younger, inexperienced and unqualified applicants and placed them in management roles over the more experienced personnel."

Just over 29 percent of our contributors are more concerned about job security than they were in the previous year (that's an improvement over the 34 percent who were worried in our 2010 survey). Although exactly half are just as paranoid.

Actual satisfaction is down slightly. In our 2010 report, 66 percent considered themselves either "somewhat satisfied" or "very satisfied." This year, only 62 percent are in those combined categories. Conversely, 24 percent are either "very dissatisfied" or "somewhat dissatisfied," four percentage points higher than last year.

But positive comments outnumbered negative ones 294 to 174. For every "I'm so pissed I don't know where to begin" (from a 30-39-year-old Ontario man in marketing & sales, making $26,000-$35,000 a year, and he hasn't had a raise in 2-3 years) there was more than one of these:

"I have a great boss, who leaves me alone but is there to support me when I need it. He helped ensure that I recently got a promotion.

2011 Food Industry Salary - Job SatisfactionAlthough working very long hours, I am very satisfied with my current (and only) job. As I say to colleagues who gripe: ‘If you think it's bad here, try somewhere else. Based on what I hear, it will probably be much worse."

And it's not all about the Benjamins. Asked "What is most important in providing you with a strong sense of job satisfaction?" "challenging work" beats salary by nearly two to one.

At the end of the day, there appears to be a cautious optimism that has workers, if not putting a down payment on a new car, at least holding out hope that the recovery really will commence soon. And their complaints render their praise as a warning to owners who have turned their companies into giant games of "Jenga," by pulling out more and more staff to preserve unequally shared dividends.

That "compliments with caveats" paradigm is expressed most succinctly by a 40-49-year-old man at a North Carolina meat/poultry/seafood company. "Our company has had declining sales, increasing costs and other hardships the last few years — the same as most everyone else — but management continues to show appreciation for a job well done and communicates how they're working to improve the situation. This attitude makes it easier for everyone to accept lower pay raises and increased workloads versus a few years ago. It's too bad more companies aren't like this."

That, my friends, is a very good question.

All 28 questions -- and responses -- from our fifth annual Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey are in a PDF that you can download by registering via our 2011 Salary Survey Registration link.

Food Industry Job Satisfaction - Demographics

Food Industry Job Satisfaction  Food Industry Job Satisfaction education
 Food Industry Job Satisfaction - Hours Worked  Food Industry Job Satisfaction - Respondents

Food Industry Job Satisfaction - Salaries by Category

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