Logistically Speaking: Money Can't Buy Happiness, But It Helps

There's an interesting and relatively new field of psychology that looks at what factors make people happy, and why some people are happier than others. Rather than focus on mental illness, positive psychology concerns itself with "mental wellness."Researchers in this field offer a variety of definitions of happiness. These definitions seek to classify immediate physical and mental pleasures as well as deeper sources of gratification from full engagement in an activity, be it work or otherwise, and the exercise of one's individual strengths. One definition divides happiness into past (feelings of satisfaction and pride), present (absorption in work, music or the company of other people) and future (feelings of optimism, hope and confidence). It's a fascinating area of study that promises to help people increase and sustain their sense of well being.

In general the respondents to the Logistics Today 2007 Salary Survey were a satisfied lot. (See the full report starting on the cover and continuing on page 26). Almost four out of five logistics professionals said they were satisfied (49%) or very satisfied (30%) with their careers. Despite such apparent contentedness, it's interesting to compare the responses of these people with their not-so-happy peers.

By job title and function, vice presidents and general managers, as well as logistics, transportation and distribution managers, had a tendency to be more satisfied than others. Some of the least satisfied people were manufacturing and materials managers, purchasing personnel, analysts and planners, and at the very bottom, customer service representatives.

Looking at industries, upcoming graduates might want to target aerospace, consumer goods, automotive, retail and, at the top, government. A greater percentage of the people in these industries reported that they were satisfied with their careers. The least satisfying sectors—I'll let you be the judge of why—were construction, wholesale distribution and the food and beverage industries.

With one exception, logistics professionals become steadily more satisfied at work as they get older, the more years that they work in the logistics field, and the longer that they stay at one company. For example, a significantly lower percentage of 20 to 30-year-olds (71%) said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs compared to those between 50 and 60 (83%). The one exception—call it an eleven-year itch—was a noticeable drop in job satisfaction for those who had been with their company for 11 to 15 years.

At first glance, pay level doesn't seem to have a big impact on job satisfaction. Men were only slightly more satisfied than women with their jobs, which is surprising considering that women earn so much less. (The median salary reported by women in logistics was 75% of the median salary for men.) There was also very little difference in job satisfaction by education level, which tends to lead to dramatically different pay levels.

But when we look at compensation directly, a greater percentage of people making $40,000 or less were unhappy with their job (32%) than those making $120,000 or more (14%). Go figure. The same goes for people who did not get a bonus last year, and for those who received only a small or token bonus. In fact, those who received less than $1,000 in extra compensation were less satisfied than those who received nothing at all.

Back to the original purpose of this comparison between those who are more and less satisfied with their logistics career. When asked what matters most about their work, people who were most satisfied with their job singled out the company's recognition of the importance of logistics, as well as the recognition of the individual's importance to the company. Judging by some of the direct comments that we received, such recognition is sorely lacking at many companies. But it isn't unheard of.

"I have been in various aspects and at increasing levels within the entire global supply chain discipline for the past 30 years," responded a v.p./ general manager in wholesale distribution who earned $111,000 plus $10,000 bonus last year when asked to comment on his salary and career. "I derive a tremendous amount of satisfaction from my job because of how all supply chain disciplines have gained such tremendous growth in responsibility and recognition within all industries over the past 15 years. I love what I do and love the company I work for. Challenge and job satisfaction are by far the biggest rewards."

It's hard to argue with that.

David Drickhamer, Editor-in-Chief [email protected]

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