2018 Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey Results: In Job Satisfaction, Food Goes Bland

Salaries and satisfaction among food and beverage employees are sliding a little, according to our annual survey.

By Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor

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Salaries are edging downward, so is job satisfaction, and people are evenly divided on President Trump.

Those are some of the key takeaways from Food Processing’s 12th annual Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey. The online poll probed nearly 400 employees in the food and beverage sector on both salaries and attitudes.

Salaries averaged out to $97,259, a drop of 3.2 percent from our 2017 survey. The median salary did go up a level, reaching $87,500, compared with $85,000 in 2016—perhaps a reflection of higher salaries clustering slightly at the top.

Job satisfaction also seems to be down slightly, or at least leveling off, depending on how you look at it. Only 16 percent of respondents report being “very satisfied” with their jobs, a drop of more than half from 2017. Dissatisfaction was up: 19 percent reported being “somewhat dissatisfied,” compared with 15 percent last year; 9 percent said they were “very dissatisfied,” versus 6.3 percent last year.

On the other hand, 43 percent reported being “somewhat satisfied” with their jobs, up considerably from the 26 percent of 2017. Add those to the “very satisfied” group and the combined 59 percent is within two points of last year’s combined “satisfied” number.

This trend roughly parallels the U.S workplace as a whole: Over the past couple of years, employees have gone from happy with their jobs to just OK with them, with a strong undercurrent of resentment, according to other national surveys. The Conference Board (www.conference-board.org) reported in 2016 that almost 51 percent of American workers were satisfied. But last year, Gallup found that 51 percent of employees considered themselves “not engaged” at work, and another 16 percent said they were “actively disengaged.”

Employment experts say that, even though wages have been stagnant for more than a decade, compensation isn’t the leading cause of job dissatisfaction. While it’s certainly a contributing factor, employees are more likely to resent what they perceive as bad management and lack of respect. The Peter Principle is to blame: Many bosses tend to get promoted due to long service to the company and success in previous roles, where they had little or no supervisory duties.

“When companies promote a worker to management on the basis of prior performance, they lose a job expert and obtain a manager who often times has no talent for people management,” Fabian Schumann, a business development managing consultant at Gallup, wrote in an article in Business Journal.

On our survey’s list of what might offer job satisfaction (with multiple choices allowed), the most popular choice, at 49 percent, was “salary and benefits.” But close behind were “challenging work” (46 percent) and “appreciation” (40 percent). Respondents who provided written comments about their jobs often emphasized appreciation—or the lack thereof—nearly as much as compensation.

“Bad management, low job security, horrible benefits, extreme demands by upper management, no appreciation,” said one dissatisfied employee. Others cited similar factors: “micromanaging CEO, very volatile”; “my boss is very discouraging and challenging to work with”; “management is a very bad at communication”; “upper administration cares little about how well we do our work.”

Conversely, those who explained why they liked their jobs often cite what they see as positive, supportive management: “The new owners have this a great place to work at”; “good work environment, fun atmosphere, understand leadership”; “good leadership and great working atmosphere”; “I have owners that care about employees and the company. They reward a job well done and don’t give up on workers that need guidance.”

Help wanted

Another macro trend that seems to be affecting the food industry is a shortage of qualified workers. As the economy maintains its momentum, companies in all employment sectors are having problems finding enough workers.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at a near-record low of 3.9 percent, employers across the country are struggling to fill a record 6.7 million job openings, according to a report released this summer by ADP and Moody’s Analytics. The problem is of course more intense in certain industries, but it’s a nationwide challenge for companies of all types and sizes.

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