What Manufacturing Managers Really Want

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What percentage of U.S. manufacturing managers like their jobs? Are these jobs stable? Is the work challenging? If Industry Week’s 2016 Salary Survey is a fair indication, some of the most important numbers in American manufacturing aren’t preceded by dollar signs. For employees who wonder if they’re being paid enough, and for employers who worry about recruiting and retaining top talent, money matters. Yet there’s more to IW’s salary survey than base pay.

Survey Methodology

According to Industry Week, the 900 U.S. manufacturing managers who responded to the 2016 survey earned, on average, $114,528 in 2015. Only 9% received salary increases of greater than 5%, but a majority of managers made more money in 2015 than in 2014. Anecdotally, some also reported working longer hours in 2015. Education level, seniority, manufacturing experience, and company size explain some of the disparities in individual salaries, but average pay also varies with gender, ethnicity, and geographic location.
Average salary is function of job responsibility, too. The relationship between salary and survey response rates is less clear. Corporate and executive-level managers topped all pay scales with an average salary of $164,209 and provided the second highest percentage (13%) of survey responses. Engineering managers earned less with an average salary of $101,643, but led all job-function groups in terms of survey responses (15%). Manufacturing and production managers provided the third largest percentage (8%) of responses and earned an average of $92,361.

What Matters Most?

Pay for U.S. manufacturing managers has remained relatively stable, but job satisfaction is high. According to the Industry Week salary survey, 85% of respondents reported being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with manufacturing as a career path. Nearly 75% reported that they’re “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their current job. In an industry where many base salaries approach or exceed $100,000 per year, is this data really that surprising? Money matters, of course, but perhaps not as much as some employers think.
When Industry Week asked manufacturing managers “What matters most to you about your job?” the leading responses were job stability (21%) and challenging work (20%). Base salary came in third at 14%, with employee recognition finishing a close fourth at 12%. Interestingly, career advancement (8%) was cited twice as often as continuing education and training (4%). For manufacturers who plan to invest more in employees, education and training that’s divorced from direct career advancement may not increase job satisfaction significantly.

Facing the Future

“If anything keeps our survey group up at night,” Industry Week reports in its 2016 Salary Survey, “it’s workforce concerns”. Many manufacturing employees are older, and nearly 80% of survey respondents consider their aging workforce “a real worry in the next five years”. Retaining key employees is important, but so is recruiting skilled replacements. According to the IW salary survey, 67% of respondents struggled to fill a position in the past year because of a lack of skilled candidates.
Compared to their counterparts in other professions, younger manufacturing workers are well-paid. Few 21 to 29 year-old employees participated in the IW survey, but those who did earned an average salary of $74,409. By comparison, the average starting salary for a college graduate in 2014 was $48,707. Does this mean that higher base salaries are the answer to U.S. manufacturing’s skills gap? Probably not.
To recruit and retain younger workers, manufacturers would do well to remember what motivates their older counterparts. Much is made of differences in values and attitudes between millennials and Baby Boomers, but both groups prize challenging work and opportunities for advancement. As a manufacturer, how are you meeting these needs?
Image Credit: © ileezhun – stock.adobe.com


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