2014 Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey: So Happy Together

Job satisfaction is high and the 'average' salary of $97,303 is a 3.16 percent increase for this group.

By Kevin T. Higgins, Managing Editor

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“Lack of appreciation, work load has increased to the level of a manager, but I have not been given appropriate compensation,” a young woman working in a small firm’s marketing department writes. “Lack of direction. Lack of training. No clear expectations or job descriptions. Little support,” adds a recent female food scientist working in dairy production. “Not enough money” is a young female QA professional’s lament.

Regardless of gender, average compensation for QA staffers is $78,114, the penultimate level among the survey’s job categories (maintenance is lowest at $73,923). Maintenance and engineering are the most egalitarian categories, based on the gap between average salaries vs. the One Percenters. Top earners in maintenance bring home 62 percent more than their group’s average, while the highest paid engineers earn 73 percent more than the average.

One Percenters in marketing have 125 percent larger-than-average paychecks, purchasing top earners get 138 percent more, and R&D leaders receive 190 percent more than their peers. Excluding the mixed-bag “other” category, corporate workers have the greatest spread: Even when respondents collecting more than $500,000 are excluded (and we did have two in that lofty category), top corporate earners received three times the category mean.

Money can’t buy love or, as the survey demonstrates, satisfaction -- even at six figures. Of those expressing deep or moderate dissatisfaction with their jobs, one in five earn $120,000 or more. They are among the more seasoned veterans, with an average tenure in the industry of 20 years. Job security is part of the issue: Half of this group say they are more concerned about their jobs than they were a year ago, double the insecurity rate for the rest of the sample.

Certainly, pay rates are a factor. The average wage of very dissatisfied workers is $10,000 less per year than for the overall sample. But the ratio of very and somewhat dissatisfied professionals who indicated salary and benefits are the single most important factor in job satisfaction was only slightly higher than for all respondents.

The opportunity for advancement, on the other hand, is where this group diverges from the mainstream. One in five dissatisfied employees tabbed advancement opportunities as the most important factor in providing them with a strong sense of job satisfaction, double the ratio for workers who are satisfied or neutral. “Not having the opportunity to advance and make a real living wage” was one disaffected professional’s explanation. “With our company’s huge growth, bonuses and raises could be higher,” added a college grad stuck in a customer operations position.

The Bliss Index

As the survey results make clear, financial and emotional security impact how an individual views his or her job. Food companies must compete with other employers to attract and retain professionals, and the feedback suggests most do so by extending certain key benefits. Medical insurance is part of the job for 89.3 percent of this year’s respondents. Dental insurance is received by 79.5 percent, and 74.6 percent participate in a 401(k) plan to which the employer contributes.

Given the long tenures food professionals have, both at their current companies and in the industry, it’s reasonable to assume people are generally satisfied in the food industry and might recommend it as a career path. If a son or daughter sought advice, would work in one particular industry segment be preferable to the others? That’s a subjective call, but to see if the pay, benefits, satisfaction and feeling of security is better in some areas, we crunched the numbers for eight processing categories.

Respondents working in the beverage category gave their jobs an overall satisfaction score of 4.2, well above the survey’s 3.6 on a 5-point scale. Baked goods was next at 3.8. Baked goods and confectionery professionals indicate they feel the most secure in their jobs. Confectionery companies are the most likely to provide medical and dental insurance, with 94 percent of respondents receiving both.

Dairy processors are close behind, and that category leads the field on four financial benefits: 401(k) matches, pension plans, profit sharing and stock options. The majority of dairy people reported receiving at least two of those benefits, and one individual receives all four. Respondents working in the grain products category were close behind, with 95 percent receiving at least one of those benefits.

So, what guidance does Food Processing’s 8th Annual Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey provide for the young food careerist? If salaries, bonuses, satisfaction and security of the people working in the field are any guidance, then the answer is, yes. Responses from individuals in eight industry segments with a large enough sample were analyzed to create a Bliss Index.

Each segment was ranked on the basis of eight metrics: median and mean salaries, health care coverage, financial benefits (pensions, 401(k) match, stock options and profit sharing), job satisfaction and level of job security. On that basis, the top segment is baked goods, followed by grain products & milling and dairy production.

Of course, the importance of those metrics as well as others are in the eye of the beholder. The people who do the work and push their organizations forward are in the best position to make the satisfaction and salary tradeoffs. As one wrote, “After so many years in this industry, I still look forward to going to work each day. I get satisfaction from seeing people who I trained 20 years ago teaching new people in our industry.” Adds another: “I can’t complain. I’m very happy and lucky; many have it worse.”

One of those individuals earns $15,000 less than the survey average (a woman), the other makes twice as much (a man). Both work in corporate positions. Both are involved in baked goods, but similar sentiments are expressed throughout the industry.

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