2012 Salary Survey: Salaries Move Ahead -- Slowly

Annual salary survey indicates respondents are content with current pace.

By Amanda Joshi, Managing Editor

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While salaries rose, the average pay raise shifted downward from 4.34% last year to 4.15%. This reflects fewer pay raises of 10% or higher. Last year, 7.44% of respondents received pay increases exceeding 10%. In 2011, that number fell to 6.3%. Most salary adjustments fall between 2.5% and 5%, according to 47% (735) of participants.

"The difference in merit raises of poor performers and outstanding performers is only one percent. If you 'walk on water' you receive 3%. If you are marginal you receive 2%," comments one reader.

Despite the lower pay raise average, the average bonus increased to $6,310 compared to $6,102 in 2011.

Echoing last year's responses, most readers (59%) believe they're adequately compensated, and those that aren't happy with their current salaries believe that will only change when they find another job, versus receiving a promotion.

"In the past four years, our company has given raises once, our 401K matching was cut 40%, other retirement benefits have been eliminated, and the annual employee cost for healthcare has risen approximately $3,000. As the economy starts to improve, I expect to see colleagues looking around for other employment opportunities if our company does not restore at least some of its compensation cuts," warns one participant.

"I'm in a large company under cost controls. Compensation is set to be as low as possible without actually losing people to the competition. The only way to significantly increase it is to change companies, which I have not done. It's like the proverbial frog in water heating on the stove," cautions another.

On balance, staffing levels have gone up compared to 12 months ago. Almost 29% of respondents say levels have increased somewhat and nearly 5% note significant increases, versus 16% who cite somewhat smaller levels and almost 5% who report significant reductions. Nearly half, 46% (711), say staff levels haven't changed in the last 12 months. Perhaps reflecting an uptick, only 1.3% of respondents say they are unemployed, while 2.4% work part-time.

Only 8% (124) of respondents employed full time work as contractors compared to the 92% (1419) that work directly for an employer. Most contract positions (43%) have no fixed term. Nearly 30% indicate their work would last over one year and 21% said their contracts ran between six months and a year.

Job security concerns remain evenly split (Figure 2). In fact, one reader noted the "The biggest problem is the low job security, which in contract R&D is subject to government funding and its ups and downs," while another argued that the industry is "demanding with little recognition, but job security is above average."

Nearly 49% feel there's only a very slight chance they'd be laid off or fired within the next two years, and about 27% believe there's a moderate chance their job is in jeopardy (Figure 3). These results echo past surveys.

As in previous years, the top frustration for most respondents (40% or 577) is the lack of recognition (Figure 4).

"It's a lot of work, [but] not much recognition for the hours spent on the job. Besides doing the job, you also have to be a mentor and trainer, plus peacemaker at times," says one survey participant.

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