Manufacturing salaries are rising, but conditions key

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Colin Monk: a positive working environment is more important than money, judging by this employment survey
Colin Monk: a positive working environment is more important than money, judging by this employment survey
The vast majority of food and drink manufacturers expect to lift staff wages this year, but a growing proportion of their employees rate a positive working environment above money, according to a survey by recruitment consultant Michael Page.

“Nearly 80% of firms were expecting to significantly increase the salaries of their employees this year, compared with a moderate or no increase last year,”​ Colin Monk, md of the recruitment agency specialising in engineering and manufacturing, told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

Matching employers’ intention to pay more was a growing expectation from employees that salary would rise this year.

But the survey of 500 manufacturing businesses revealed that employees rated a positive working environment as even more important that wages.

While salaries remain an important part of staff retention, they are not the whole story. “More than half our respondents said that a positive working environment was perhaps the most effective retention strategy – even more than that salary increase," ​said Monk. "So, offering salaries that are above inflation and industry averages is not necessarily alone going to be responsible for retaining staff.”

More important than money

More important than money, according to employees was their employers’ ability to communicate clearly the future direction of the company, the challenges it faced and personal career development plans.

“I was surprised by this because we are talking about a very technically orientated environment, which is about logic and about your skill. Yet here, we are talking about human factors.

“Normally, in tough economic conditions when salaries were flat, you would expect money to be right at the top of the agenda for retention. But our survey showed, while important, is was not the most important thing. It comes down to employees’ realisation: we can bang on about how much we are worth all day, but if the money is not there, it won’t happen.”

Career progression

But in lieu of salary or promotion in the short term, more employees expected their managers to clarify two or three year development plans that would map out their path to career progression.

In addition to career planning, employees also counted operational efficiencies as part of a positive working environment. “At a basic level, how you harmonise shift patterns is rated as important,” ​said Monk. "Is there a good handover or are there two organisations working at completely different levels? The kind of continuity can really help the engagement and retention of people working for that organisation.”

The survey also revealed that fewer than 7% of firms reported plans to increase permanent headcount this year. But employers boosting the employment of temporary staff increased by about 8%.

Last year’s survey reported that more than three-quarters of food and drink manufacturers said they expected to boost the salaries and bonuses​ in the next 12 months.

Watch out for more news on food manufacturing salaries from the Michael Page survey later this week.

Meanwhile, to view more than 1,100 food and drink manufacturing vacancies – from development and engineering to production and quality assurance, visit FoodManjobs​.

Related topics: Manufacturing, Services

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