Pacific Northwest Managers, Workers Dont See Eye to Eye on Salaries

Washington State University study also notes a similar contrast over business-climate perceptions

By Bill Conroy May 21, 2019

Business people working at desks. Male and female professionals working in modern office space.

Employers and employees diverge on some key issues related to their perceptions of the Pacific Northwest economy and what motivates employees most, according to a survey sponsored by the Carson College of Business at Washington State University.

The survey, which polled some 1,000 individuals evenly split between managers and employees, indicates that 61% of business leaders are confident that the business climate in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon and Idaho) is improving, a gain of 11 percentage points over the 2018 survey results.

Employees responding to the survey, however, are less bullish, with only 48% indicating that the regional business climate is improving. A similar divergence in perceptions shows up over the question of what best motivates employees.

Employees are highly focused on salary and would prefer more money over other benefits, the survey analysis states. Across the board, salary is prioritized over benefits like paid or unpaid vacation time, a higher ranked title, a flexible work schedule and a more manageable workload.

By contrast, most business leaders surveyed believe their employees are more concerned about benefits than salary, with nearly 60 percent indicating that their staff would prefer a flexible schedule over a higher salary, for example. When taking salary off the table, though, managers and employees are agreed on which benefits are most important: health care, job security and a manageable workload.

A trait of successful company is finding and retaining motivated and skilled employees, says Ronald Moser, a business professor at Washington State University. Unsurprisingly, salary remains the top priority for employees.

While business leaders may be quick to brush this aside, I would encourage thoughtful exploration of this issue. Consider larger economic trends that show up for many people their wages barely keep up with the cost of living and inflation.

Many business leaders and employees polled attribute improvements in the regional business climate to advances in technology and improved efficiency. But technology is not the only shining star in the Pacific Northwest.

The Business in the Northwest 2019 survey also notes that business managers and employees alike see expanding opportunities in other sectors that are poised to become the next big thing, including the marijuana industry and the Pacific Northwests world-class wine production.

In terms of company branding and reputation, business leaders identified the following issues as key: creating higher standards for cybersecurity, no tolerance for sexual harassment, and using and supporting locally sourced materials.

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