Employers like to point to surveys that show an employee’s job satisfaction is not related to his/her paycheck. In reality, that’s an over simplification.

While the amount on a paycheck may not carry the most weight in whether a worker likes or dislikes his job, it is the base on which the foundation is built. How many people do you think would show up at to work in a hog building without the promise of a paycheck?

According to Salary.com’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Retention Survey, 57 percent of dissatisfied employees cited inadequate compensation as the reason they want to walk out the door. The survey found that 65 percent of the 13,592 participants plan to look for a new job sometime in the next few months.

But, are employees underpaid or do they perceive that to be the case? Salary.com dug deeper. The compensation experts looked at job titles, industry, geographic locations and other factors of the people answering the survey and matched that to a benchmark job and salary in Salary.com’s vast database.

The analysis showed that only 18.7 percent of those who thought they were underpaid where justified in that claim. That means more than 80 percent of the workers had the wrong perception about their paycheck. Of those workers, 34.2 percent were paid fairly according to the market, while 17.4 percent were overpaid.

Interestingly—or sadly—29.6 percent were designated as over-titled. This is when an employee receives a new title, without any of the responsibilities, instead of a raise. Consequently, their titles don’t reflect their true job or compensation level.

Granted, the Salary.com survey focuses on employees outside of agriculture, but these days trends crisscross industries, as do potential employees. Agriculture is becoming increasingly similar to other businesses, especially as it relates to employee challenges.

Bill Coleman, senior vice president of compensation at Salary.com, says the main lesson is that employees and employers should try to accurately match job duties and salaries with others as a benchmark. This effort will give both parties a clear perspective of the marketplace and values.

Here are some steps to determine whether you are underpaid or whether you’re doing the under paying.

  • Match job descriptions. This may take some extra effort for ag-based jobs, but fortunately there increasingly are employee consultants, university-based specialists and employment companies that specialize in agricultural employee issues.  

    Match your operation’s various job descriptions with others—internally and externally– to build a benchmark for each job. In comparing jobs for benchmarking purposes, focus on the job duties and requirements, advises Coleman. Job titles can be misleading. This is not the place to get creative. Align titles with duties, and then review salary levels.

  • Match employer factors. In essence, this involves benchmarking employers in a similar way as benchmarking jobs.

    As an employer you need to compare your job list with that of comparable pork operations in the neighborhood. This also applies to other jobs in the area that compete with you for the available labor force. For certain jobs, such as consultants, veterinarians and certain managers, you will need to make comparisons on a broader scale—regionally or nationally.

  • Match personal factors. It is wise to allow for some wiggle room when hiring and compensating employees. In other words, there’s value in experience, education and performance. Those are personal factors that justify a different/higher salary than others with a similar job.

    Perception is reality, as they say, so if employees perceive that you are not compensating them fairly, they will be unhappy, restless and eventually resentful. It’s your challenge to identify how the jobs that you offer and the compensation you provide compare with others. You may find in the process that you do in fact need to make some changes.

Regardless, you have to educate employees on the details, and expose their perceptions to reality.

Why Employees Leave

If you think salary doesn’t matter to employees, you’re kidding yourself. While it might not be the sole determining factor for leaving a job, it does contribute to the decision. 

Other common reasons employees’ cite as reasons to move on include: lack of advancement opportunity; insufficient benefits; incompatibility with boss, co-workers or company; undesirable commute; and boredom.