Mining employees sending mixed, but honest messages on pay

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Employees might tell you they care more about work-life balance than salary, but what really motivates them?

The results of the latest MPi poll suggest the signals mining employees send employers about their expectations for pay and conditions can be dangerously misleading – and salary is more important right now than you might think.

A series of recent polls conducted via the Mining People Polling/Media Centre reveals some interesting contradictions in the motivations of employees. In January 2018 we asked:

What takes priority when you’re searching for your next mining job opportunity?

  • Salary
  • Career development
  • Work-life balance

We then wrote an article in February 2018, comparing the results to an identical poll carried out in August 2016. As the mining industry has climbed out of this current down cycle, we wanted to understand if the things jobseekers rated highly were changing.     

You can read the full article here but we can also summarise the results as follows:

In August 2016, only 15.8% of people regarded salary as their top priority. To put this another way, 84% of people rated non–salary factors — lifestyle or career progression — as their priority when searching for their next job.

Roll forward to January 2018 where 24% of people rated salary as their top priority. Again, to put it another way, 76% of people rated non–salary factors as their priority when searching for their next job.

While there was some change, the poll result continued to show jobseekers prioritise other factors ahead of money when it comes to finding a rewarding job in the mining industry.

But what are you worth?

Here’s where it gets interesting. In March 2018, we decided to take a different approach and ask a far more emotive question, which would hopefully tap into someone’s sense of self-worth.

We asked:

Do you feel you are being paid what you are worth?

The results were fascinating and contradictory. We received 450 votes — a material sample size.

78.45% of people answered no!

We then asked the no voters:

By how much do you feel you are being underpaid?   

Between   1% and   2%                       2.1% of the no voters

Between   2% and   5%                       6.7% of the no voters

Between   5% and 10%                     20.9% of the no voters

Between 10% and 15%                    30.0% of the no voters

More than 15%                                  40.3% of the no voters.

Then we asked:

When did you receive your last pay rise?

This produced a wide range of results but, unsurprisingly, a large number — 40% — had not had a pay rise for more than three years.

The last question was:

How likely are you to change jobs if you continue to be underpaid?

Very likely                  59.33%

Somewhat likely        26.89%

Not likely                    13.78%

The full survey results can be found here.

As employers, what should we make of this?

Clearly the questions in the first two polls were subtly different to the latest poll. The first two asked what was rated highly once someone had begun to look for a new job. It’s a drier question and one asked in the context of someone having already decided to move, whereas the latest poll elicited a more emotional response about their feelings towards the job they’re currently in.

This is where polls and surveys can be dangerous if taken out of context or if a very clear consideration is not given to the specific question.

We have seen many polls and headlines declaring things like “Employees rate career progression and personal development higher than salary”.   

But our results, considered together, tell us that if employers take the results of the first polls in isolation and use them to determine that they don’t need to be too concerned with pay, they are at risk of losing good people.

As best as we can surmise, yes, it may well be true that employees rate other factors higher than pay when they begin to look for a new job. But they probably also strongly feel they will get a job that pays them what they feel they are worth and, in fact, probably won’t take a job if it doesn’t.

We feel the same caution needs to be taken when conducting reference checks, interviews and, most importantly, performance reviews. If you don’t create a way of asking really direct questions, that get to the heart of the matter in a non-threatening way, chances are you are just being told what you want to hear.

Fascinating stuff!

Please vote in our latest mining industry poll

Take part here.

Third-party commissioned research

If you are looking for deep insights into the mining markets and would like MPi to conduct some targeted industry research on your behalf then please email us.

Steve Heather signature
Steve Heather – BAppSc (Mining Engineering) WASM, FRCSA

Managing Director & Principal Executive Search - Mining People International (MPi)

Fellow/National Board Member – Recruitment, Consulting & Staffing Association Aust. & N.Z. (RCSA)

[email protected]