Authored by:
Stephen J. Mraz
Senior Editor
stephen.mraz@ penton.com

Machine Design added several questions to its annual salary survey to see how engineers and their employees are faring in this economy. We also asked engineers how companies could make their jobs more enjoyable if not easier.

What engineers don’t like When it comes to annoying issues, engineers seem to share many complaints with nonengineering professionals and workers. The most common of these is poor compensation (24%) and long hours (17%), not enough people to get the job done (38%), lack of management support (23%), and no potential for advancement (25%). Respondents didn’t have many engineering- specific gripes. The most notable were: too much nonengineering work (33%), uncertainty in the engineering job market (19%), time-to-market pressures (15%), having to compromise on designs (14%), and difficulty finding the best components (3%).

We asked readers how their employers had reacted to the economic uncertainty over the past three years. On one hand, some stats indicate things are going well. Most engineers (57%) say they received raises and that their employers hired more engineers (49%), as well as more manufacturing workers (37%) and support personnel (32%). Other stats, however, are not as optimistic. A fifth of the respondents (21%) didn’t receive their traditional bonus, more than a tenth (12%) had their salaries cut, more than half (52%) experienced a bump in health-care costs while a fifth (21%) had benefits such as tuition reimbursement and 401k matching funds, cut. And almost half (45%) saw workers laid off. So the engineering landscape is hardly homogenous. Some areas an industries are doing well, while others struggle.

That perfect job
When asked what it would take to get them to change jobs, engineers went for the money. The vast majority said they’d do it for a bigger salary (72%), a large signing bonus (15%), or more vacation time (23%). The most critical factor for others (49%) was the desire for a better balance between work and home life, and it’s doubtful they want to spend more time at the office. (More on this later). Some respondents seem to want that prefect new job to significantly change their lives. Many clearly wanted a complete career change (15%), while others wanted to relocate (11%), get more responsibility (15%), or work with new technologies (18%). And a few engineers (5%), hopefully the more junior ones, say all it would take to get them to switch companies is a new title.

So what would it take to balance work and home life? The most popular responses were being allowed to work from home (46%), flexible work hours (40%), and fewer hours or less overtime (28%). Another popular answer, on-site exercise facilities (22%), seems more like a perk than a way to balance work and home life. Others want more time to spend socializing with coworkers (9%). Additional responses included less travel (10%), options for part-time employment (5%), on-site day care (4%), and shared transportation such as reimbursement for public transit, carpool coordination, and company vans that pick up and deliver employees to work (5%).

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.