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What Matters Most to You About Your Job?

Feb. 14, 2017
Material handling and logistics managers are deepy invested in keeping the U.S. supply chain humming along.

Every year at this time we do an in-depth study of the material handling and logistics industry by polling you, the readers, on the issues of most importance to you. Although we call it a salary survey (see p. 12), we could just as easily call it a workforce survey, since we focus as much on how and why you do what you do, not just on what you get paid to do it.

And beyond asking for salary information (all provided anonymously, of course), we also ask this key question: "What matters most to you about your job?" In all the years that we've run this survey, "job stability" has always been the number one answer, with "base salary" consistently in second place. In some years (such as during the recession), the gap between those two has been significant. In 2010, for instance, the difference was 21%. When jobs are hard to come by and the economy is in the tank, it's not surprising that people place a high priority on just having a job.

When the economy improves, of course, then the gap between stability and salary tends to tighten, which it did last year, with a mere 1% separating the respondents who said stability (20%) and those who said salary (19%). In this year's survey, though, stability (28%) opened up a 12% lead over salary (16%), which indicates a feeling of skittishness regarding the current or near-term future state of the material handling and logistics industry. Indeed, those who attended the MHI Annual Conference last fall heard economist Jason Schenker point out that recessions tend to occur within the first year of a Presidential election, and that a slowdown in the U.S. economy would have a disproportionately larger impact on material handling and logistics. So it's certainly understandable why job stability is of prime importance to those in the industry.

But stability and salary certainly aren't the only things of importance to MH&L readers. We also spun the "what matters most" question in another direction, and asked: "If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?" As you would expect, there were the usual "more pay and fewer hours" type of answers, but more often than not the responses were outward-facing rather than inward-looking, reflecting the respondents' deeply-vested interest in the profession itself, not just the size of their paycheck or how many vacation days they get in a year.

Here are a few examples (you can find the entire collection of responses at MH&L's Annual Salary Surveys):

  • "Increase automation and implement new software applications that will create better information for analysis."
  • "Expand into more markets."
  • "Implement a stronger, proactive safety program."
  • "More strategic and less tactical work."
  • "Have a WMS that would allow us to be more efficient and provide useful reports for individual and group productivity."
  • "Get our company to join the MHI for more brand-name recognition."
  • "Cultural empathy for operational workers."
  • "Become more market-focused to turn opportunities into realities."
  • "Attend more professional development seminars and industry trade shows."
  • "Eliminate the strategic business unit concept at my company and organize around function. The decentralization creates internal competition and added costs."
  • "Get others to realize the difficulty and the time it takes to actually create and ship the parts. Dropping off at 4 pm today and expecting them to be in Hong Kong at 6 am tomorrow probably will not happen."
  • "More freedom to explore new ways of accomplishing tasks, i.e., not using the same solutions for similar problems every time but rather considering other options that may have been developed or matured in recent months."

Clearly, material handling and logistics managers have a lot more on their minds when they come to work than just moving stuff around warehouses and in and out of trucks. As the industry continues to evolve around new technologies and delivery channels, I have no doubt that the U.S. supply chain will continue to be the model that the rest of the world  envies and emulates. We have material handling and logistics people to thank for that.