Survey: Job satisfaction more important than salary, say fresh food workers in UK

Survey: Job satisfaction more important than salary, say fresh food workers in UK

Gill McShane

Andrew Fitzmaurice managing director of MorePeople
Andrew Fitzmaurice, Managing Director of MorePeople, says, ‘the companies that make the greatest efforts to impress — and give a sense of their culture — leave interview candidates with a warm feeling.’

A survey of 600 fresh produce, horticulture, food and agriculture workers in the UK has revealed that job satisfaction and work-life balance are higher priorities than salary and location. Commissioned by recruitment agency MorePeople, ahead of next month’s Fresh Careers Fair, the salary survey closed in early February after a three-month run on SurveyMonkey. PBUK got the inside track on how the results might vindicate current practices or influence positive change by speaking with Andrew Fitzmaurice, Managing Director of MorePeople. 

Respondents were asked 19 questions about their current job, salary and benefits, as well as their opinion regarding priorities for future employment. 

The results were aggregated, as well as presented according to four of the most popular job types: Buying, Technical, Sales and Marketing and Directors.

Just over half (52 per cent) of those surveyed work in produce and horticulture.


The Top Ten Findings:

  1. Job satisfaction is more important than salary.
  2. Improved work-life balance usurps salary for a dream job.
  3. People don’t want a career in one job or one company.
  4. 20-plus days holiday and a range of benefits are standard.
  5. Bonuses are the norm.
  6. Annual pay rises are occurring.
  7. Car allowance is not commonplace.
  8. Location is important, but many are willing to relocate.
  9. Acquiring skills and development is crucial.
  10. New skills from other industries would be beneficial.


Job satisfaction

Of the Top 10 findings, job satisfaction emerged as the biggest priority when looking for a new job, outperforming salary, location and even career progression, scoring 4.74 out of 5. 

But how to quantify job satisfaction is possibly the million-dollar question, accepts Fitzmaurice. “You’ve got to ask what it means to people, because it’s very easy to get wrong,” he comments. “What they want and what you think they want might be two very different things. 

“We had a conference last month, and the thirst for information and communication about how the business is performing was number one. You might be thinking about offering greater incentives to reward the team, but it might be remedied easily through simple communication.” 

Company culture

Putting salary and location aside – which are often considered to be a given when looking for a new job – company culture ranked fourth on the list of respondents’ priorities, scoring 4.34 out of 5.

Despite this, Fitzmaurice questions whether employers actually understand their company culture, and if they spend time improving and communicating their company’s personality. He cites the interview process as one simple example. 

“The companies that make the greatest efforts to impress — and give a sense of their culture — leave interview candidates with a warm feeling,” he notes.

“Companies that are more clinical and don’t allow candidates to get a sense of their culture or what the job satisfaction might be like, could be missing a trick. It doesn’t cost to implement this approach, just a bit of effort.”


Work-life balance

For a dream job, meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of respondents (68 percent) 
said they would consider taking a lower salary, citing improved work-life balance as the main driver.

“Perhaps this speaks to the culture of our times,” suggests Fitzmaurice. “A 21st century lifestyle comes with many different priorities — health, working mothers, male parental leave, good mental health, family and career — which are perhaps driving the sentiment of an improved work-life balance versus money.”

With this trend set to continue, Fitzmaurice recommends employers consider ways to help staff, and understand their desires; whether that be a four-day working week, flexible hours, home working or otherwise. 

“It doesn’t need to be an arms race, but I definitely think it’s worthy of some internal air-time to think about. Life is not just about working,” he says.

“People are moving jobs more often, so if you aren’t offering [work-life balance] and someone else is, you run the risk of losing people, or not attracting them in the first place.”

For example, Fitzmaurice says he often ensures that he makes time for the gym because the impact of health on productivity is better understood nowadays.

“It makes me more productive, it makes me happier, and I’m more likely to stay here,” he points out. “Does it cost much to afford staff some flexibility that will make them more productive, and help with retention? Probably not!”

Job duration

JOBCHART3When it comes to the ideal job duration, the survey supports the view that most people want to avoid job hopping. More than 75 per cent of respondents said they wish to stay in one job for three to 10 years. 

However, the survey indicates that people don’t expect to spend an entire career in one job or one company either – a trend that could intensify with Millennials and Generation Z. Less than 17 per cent of those surveyed felt the optimum time to work in one role is more than 11 years.

Digging deeper, a relatively high proportion of technical workers among those surveyed have spent even less time with one employer, with 75 per cent of respondents having switched companies in the past five years. 

“Does this speak to the demand for such candidates?” questions Fitzmaurice. “Certainly we find that the shortage of good technical candidates is pronounced … the industry isn’t attracting enough new talent.”

Although the industry does not have a bad image, Fitzmaurice suggests it lacks an image in the first place.

“Food is the biggest manufacturing sector in the country, but my general feeling is that it doesn’t have the status it deserves,” he comments. 

“The companies going to talk to university students are the likes of Mondelez. Meanwhile, the majority of companies that make up our fruit and veg industry are not household names.

“The average person who is buying and eating produce has no idea where it comes from. We have to work even harder to give those businesses and the sector a louder voice and more penetration among new candidates, so they don’t overlook the brilliant opportunities.” 


JOBCHART4AVIn terms of holiday, the trend of offering 20+ days is widespread, according to the survey. Almost 65 per cent of people said they receive 21-25 days holiday, while 28 per cent take 26+ days.

Overall, the top five benefits received by those surveyed are: pension scheme, free parking, company bonus, health insurance and car allowance.

Others include: life assurance, staff benefits and flexible working. Lower down the scale are: free fruit, gym membership, the option to buy more holiday and an early finish on Fridays. 

To compete in a market with a shortage of jobseekers, Fitzmaurice says benefits can help employers to make their business and offer as compelling as possible.

“Our view is that candidates expect more in terms of benefits than perhaps was previously the case,” he notes. “Everyone wants to find a competitive edge where benefits are concerned and they could/should be easy things to implement.

“Look [in the survey] at the list of benefits, and question whether or not you offer them, and whether the cost of implementing them is worth more than having to recruit a new person.” 

For example, while Fitzmaurice accepts rolling out car allowance to everyone is unrealistic, offering a day’s holiday for birthdays is straightforward.

“Will it change someone’s life or make them join your business? Probably not,” he acknowledges. “But it’s an easy benefit to offer to make a marginal gain towards attracting and retaining people, and striving for a better company culture.” 


JOBCHART5VOn the pay front, over 65 per cent of those surveyed said they receive a bonus of some kind, suggesting bonuses are becoming the norm.

Of that total, 20 per cent said their bonus represents 0-5 per cent of their salary. This proportion rises as salaries increase; for example, more than 54 per cent of surveyed directors (receiving £100,000-plus) said they receive bonuses of 21 per cent or more.

“Maybe it is to motivate, incentivise and reward employees, which should also aid recruitment and retention,” Fitzmaurice notes.

Pay rises

At the same time, pay rises are widespread, as the vast majority of those surveyed (70 per cent) claimed to have received an increase over the past 12 months.

Generally speaking, this was on the back of companywide annual inflation (true for 53.94 per cent of respondents). In terms of the level of increase received, most pay rises were in the region of 0-5 per cent (for 72.84 per cent of respondents). 

Car allowance 

Car allowance is not commonplace among the four job functions: buying, technical, sales & marketing and directors, since 67 per cent of respondents do not receive one. Conversely, 60 per cent of buyers do receive a car allowance.

“Perhaps that’s the nature of the role or because it’s expected in their package,” suggests Fitzmaurice. “More than 70 per cent of technical workers don’t receive a car allowance — perhaps this is an opportunity to attract or retain top technical talent?”


Although location is important, almost half of those surveyed said they are willing to relocate, especially those in senior positions. Buyers and directors emerged as the most likely to relocate; 66 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively, said they would.

Although the result is interesting, Fitzmaurice urges employers to bear in mind that in reality people generally are less happy to relocate, despite what they say. 


Skills & development

For the vast majority of employers in the fresh food sector, Investment in skills and development is a priority. Some 72 per cent of respondents said they believe this to be the case. 

On the flip-side, most respondents are only picking up new skills quite often (39.57 per cent) or sometimes (34.06 per cent). Even so, it appears everyone is acquiring some new skills at work.

On this note, Fitzmaurice says everyone should bear the responsibility of training, and not fear losing trained staff, because, ultimately, the industry is the winner. 

“It’s human nature to want to pick up new skills, and it should be encouraged,” he says. “I don’t have any fears in training someone in a skill and them moving to a different company because the greater benefit is having well-trained people, and that aids retention and recruitment.”

On the skills front, the survey makes clear the opportunity to strengthen the food, agriculture and horticulture industry with skills from elsewhere considering more than two-thirds of respondents have worked in their respective industries for more than six years, and more than half of respondents (57.51 per cent) have worked in the industry for in excess of 11 years.

“In our experience, the food, agriculture and horticulture sectors have never been great at accommodating transferrable skills from other sectors,” Fitzmaurice says. “Maybe this is a missed opportunity to strengthen the gene pool with skills from elsewhere?

“It’s a finite pool of people and we can move people around; but everyone has aspirations to grow, so how do we solve that? We need an increase of new blood into the sector.” 



On the whole, Fitzmaurice says the survey paints a positive picture for the fresh food industry as a workplace.

JOBSATIS1“Fresh food is a pretty dynamic place to work,” he points out. “People are moving around in their roles, which we can see from how many years they’ve worked in the industry, and they are picking up new skills.

“The salaries you can earn are high, and people are getting pay rises. Nearly 40 per cent of the people surveyed are earning more than £50,000. If I’d known that as a graduate, I’d have thought that sounds great!”

The MorePeople Salary Survey 2019 is the first of its kind for the agency, which, in the past, has produced data reports based on the general opinions of its recruiters, and the information gleaned from submitted CVs.

“Over the years, we’ve been asked by clients for our stance on salaries and benefits,  but we’ve never had the hard facts to give back,” explains Fitzmaurice. 

“Everyone has their own view on what people prioritise as their key drivers when it comes to moving jobs. I wanted to remove opinion from the argument.

“We hope our clients can use this survey to benchmark their own internal practices, and the job offers they make. Often, employers try to guesstimate where any given offer should be. This survey will hopefully help to address that.

“I hope this survey serves as a talking point or a stimulus for employers to address why they do things. Take it for what it is, and definitely question what’s on there.”

MorePeople plans to conduct the salary survey in the same or a similar format once a year or biennially in order to compare the hard data. 

The Salary Survey 2019 can be downloaded from the MorePeople website.



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