Salaries fell for plastics professionals in 2016, a newly released survey shows. But there's a story behind the numbers, and Dennis Gros thinks it's a pretty good one.
Gros is president of Gros Executive Recruiters, the firm that conducts an annual survey on behalf of the Society of Plastics Engineers.
The latest numbers show the average base salary dropped 2.1 percent to $96,804 for the 1,351 people who took part in the survey. Average total cash compensation decreased 1 percent to $112,740.
Despite the decreases, the survey shows that employee optimism about the industry is increasing.
Gros also said the average compensation decline could be a function of who is taking part in the survey compared with years gone by. More younger employees, with less experience and lower wages, are participating, he said.
“It seems we're picking up new employees, some younger employees who have fewer years of experience in the industry within the ranks of our worker group and our salary survey,” Gros said.
“I think it's a function of hiring in the industry. It's good news for the industry. I think it's a function of new hires in the plastic industry. It's refreshing to see the plastics industry accepting the new professionals. We are going to need their enthusiasm. We are going to need their energy,” he said.
Workers surveyed this time around appreciate working as a plastic professional.
“For the most part, our workers are generally content. Now why are they content? They are content because they look around and they see we're doing about as well as we can do. ‘I can't complain to my management and demand more money. There's just not a lot out there for me to tap into,'” Gros said about the attitude these days.
“Generally, the trends are positive, generally happy,” he said. “There's no revolt.”
During the last survey, salaries dropped an average of 3.8 percent, and total cash compensation, which includes bonuses and incentives, fell 3.2 percent.
Optimism about the role of manufacturing also has Gros bullish about the future for the plastics industry. “Manufacturing is carrying a lot of influence in national political circles,” he said. A lighter regulatory burden can help increase manufacturing profitability.
“If we, as a country, focused more on manufacturing as a core competency of our economy and volumes go up, hopefully profitability goes up and compensation goes up behind it,” he said.
Russell Broome, managing director of SPE, agreed.
“There are external influences that tend to make me lean more on the optimistic side for employment in the plastics industry,” he said in a statement. “We are entering a very manufacturing friendly environment with less regulation. This coupled with the fact we are entering another NPE cycle is critical in supporting continued growth predicted by the survey,” he continued.
Some 64 percent of managers indicated they believe employee compensation will increase by 1 to 3 percent this year.
The current economic situation, along with future manufacturing hope means that “optimism reigns,” Gros said.
“It really does. We're not seeing dissatisfaction,” he said, among those surveyed. “Those are fragile descriptors. And they tend to have a time limit. And I would suggest that if we see significant improvement in terms of volume and profitability in the plastics industry in the next two years, you are going to see a lack of contentment in the work force. These numbers will change. Because, at that point, everybody will be looking for his slice of the pie.”
Some 72 percent of the workers surveyed indicated they are satisfied with their current employment, and 70 percent said their company is a great place to work. On the flip side, 32 percent indicated they are more than likely going to look for a new job in the next 12 months, Gros reported.
Salary, of course, is the biggest influence on someone's desire to work for another company. Both the ability to work from home and the opportunity for flexible hours also showed up on the survey as job-changing factors, a trend that Gros says comes from more millennials entering the workforce.