Distributed Control / Systems Integration

2014 Salary Survey: Perks Aplenty?

Factors Other Than Salary and Perks Motivate Our Readers to Come to Work Daily and Do Their Best

By Leslie Gordon

This year's salary survey took a snapshot of how our readers see the process automation world in terms of the paycheck they get, the benefits they enjoy and even the pain points they feel. Overall, it shows a picture of the process engineering profession as one where members are well-paid, with a large number of our respondents earning more than $100,000 a year. That said, benefits have remained fairly stagnant over the last two years. What follows are more detailed results of this year's picture-taking.

Of course, compensation entails more than a paycheck. Our respondents seem to enjoy a fair number of perks and receive benefits such as medical (90.8%), dental (79.5%), life insurance (77.9%), disability (65.9%), pension (46.8%), 401K (68%) and tuition reimbursement (39.6%). Other common perks include stock options (13.6%), profit sharing (18.4%), car (9.9%), flex time (33.0%) and telecommuting (14.8%). Under the "Other” category, respondents mentioned flex spending accounts (FSAs) and wellness programs.

That said, this does seem to be an area where the numbers are staying fairly flat over the last two years. For example, in 2013, just a slightly smaller percentage of respondents reported getting medical (89%), dental (77%), life insurance (77%), disability (65%), pension (45%), 401K (67%), stock options (17%), flex time (32%) and telecommuting (16%). However, note that several of these numbers dropped significantly from our 2009 survey results. For instance, in the categories of medical, dental, disability, life insurance and 401K, numbers often fell by 10% or more.

In addition, with 42.9% getting a salary bump from last year of only $2,000 to $4,000, there are bound to be those who want more money. But this complaint was likely assuaged by the bonus that 65.5% of the respondents received. About half of them got anywhere from 2% to 10% of their salary as a bonus. About three-fourths of our respondents (73.8%) do not get paid for overtime.

Engineers don't necessarily find salary and benefits the biggest enticement. Many respondents (44.2%) pegged challenging work as the most important factor in providing them with a sense of job satisfaction. Other appealing factors included job security (10.1%), opportunity for advancement (8.9%) and appreciation (13.5%). Some respondents also mentioned they find it important to like the people they work with.

Interestingly, many engineers have chosen to remain among the rank and file (or is it that they haven't had the opportunity to move up?) as evidenced by the respondents' years of supervisory experience. Results are fairly evenly spread among engineers with two to five years (17.1%), six to 10 years (16.9%), 11 to 15 years (14.0%), 16 to 20 years (11.2%), and more than 20 years (15.4%) in the big office.

Happy Is as Happy Does?
When we asked engineers if they were happy in the automation profession, more than three-fourths (78.1%) gave a resounding "yes.” Job happiness is also evidenced by the number of the respondents (83.5%) saying they would encourage their children to go into automation.

More Pluses and Minuses
When we asked our readers how the economy has affected the profession, comments ranged from "No change” and "Not affected” to more dire remarks, such as "Our plant will close this year,” "Projects are on hold,” "Wages are stagnant,” and "Company is not hiring.” Other respondents discuss the "difficulty of finding talent” and say, "College grads' expectations are way too high.”

On the other hand, one reader comments, "Advancements seem to go to the younger generations with less experience, and the higher turnover rates in senior management raises concerns. All the metrics are on short-term gains and not long-term success. The focus seems to be on quarter-to-quarter gains.”

As far as more workplace pluses, one respondent says his company is "a good place to work,” and another reports that he "just got a promotion.”

On the other hand, complaints are not rare, ranging from "The company goal is to do more with fewer people,” to "Engineering is being treated as less of a profession and more of a commodity.”

Another chimes in saying, "Management talks about improving quality and productivity, but does not back it up with money,” while another suggests that companies should provide career guides to entry control engineers. "The guide should provide practical knowledge and skills for each industry.” Yet another respondent comments, "In the past two years, my company has landed few large, long-term projects, and the stress level is high. Retention bonuses promised by our president after a major layoff in 2013 never materialized. We know that things are going badly, but upper management says nothing.”

On the upside though, one respondent says that to reflect changing times, the survey should add salary categories above a base of $150,000. He also says, "My company is also trying to attack the skills gap by encouraging us mid-50s guys (and gals) to stay around via future incentive pay.”

Complete survey results are available at http://www.controlglobal.com/assets/14WPpdf/CG-1407-SalaryResults2014.pdf