Workers Want Raises, or They Will Walk

Survey finds employees looking for more money in the new year

By Dana Wilkie Jan 9, 2015

More than one in three workers say they’ll look for a new job if they don’t get a pay raise in the new year, and about half expect that raise to be 3 percent to 5 percent of their current salary.

Those are among the findings of Glassdoor’s Employment Confidence Survey, released Jan. 9, 2015.

The online survey, conducted by Harris Poll from Dec. 12-16, 2014, was taken by 2,030 U.S. adults 18 or older who were employed full or part time. Glassdoor, an online provider of company ratings and salaries, has conducted its survey quarterly for the past six years to measure job market optimism, job security sentiment, salary expectations and business outlook optimism.

“I think the nice, steady quarter-over-quarter job growth and steady drumbeat in the market” are contributing to employee confidence, said Rusty Rueff, a Glassdoor career and workplace expert. “You see less people getting laid off, the news is about growth, industries are reinvesting into their companies … for almost four years, it’s been sort of a steady, upward growth, indicating we’re off the roller coaster and everything is a little more predictable.”

The predictability may translate into confidence among the nation’s workers—confidence that they should be earning at least modest raises this year, and if they don’t, confidence that they can walk out the door and find another job.

Forty-three percent of employees expect a pay raise or cost-of-living increase in the next 12 months, up 1 percentage point from the same time last year, and up 4 percentage points from two years ago. Half (49 percent) expect that raise to be from 3 percent and 5 percent.

Confidence in the job market has reached its highest point in the past six years, with almost half (48 percent) of employees reporting they are confident that in the next six months, they could find a job matching their experience and current compensation. That’s up 1 percentage point from the third quarter of 2014. Of those unemployed but looking for a job, that confidence increased 10 percentage points to 43 percent since the previous quarter, which is also a six-year high.

Simply Hired, a job-searching website, reported that job searches spiked on the first Monday of January 2015, with 56 percent more searches compared to the December 2014 average. The top three search terms, Simply Hired reported, were “part time,” “temporary” and “human resources.”

Forty-three percent of employees said they expected their company’s business outlook to improve in the next six months, up 4 percentage points from the third quarter of 2014. About half (49 percent) said their company’s business outlook will remain the same, while 8 percent believe it will get worse.

A 3- to 5-percent raise expectation is “a big number compared to the recession, when it was likely 1 to 2 percent max,” Rueff said.

“There were lots of people who didn’t get any increases at all and plenty that lost pay during that period. Now, 3 to 5 percent is nothing compared to the rah-rah days of the 90s or early 2000s when your expectation as a good performer could be 5 to 7 percent. But let’s also remember that we’re in a no-inflation period right now and have been since 2008. So 3 to 5 percent might feel like 5 to 7 percent because all those things around us are not inflating—the cost of our gas, food and housing.”

Only 13 percent of workers said they were worried about being laid off in the next six months, down 2 percentage points from the previous quarter—and a new six-year low. But nearly one in four (23 percent) said they were worried about co-workers being laid off, up 1 percentage point from the previous quarter.

Men reported being more optimistic than women (48 percent to 39 percent) that business will improve in the next six months. Men are also more optimistic than women (52 percent to 45 percent) that they’ll get a 3 percent to 5 percent pay raise.

“There’s this pie in front of them, and [men are] used to getting the bigger piece of pie. Then the next time the pie gets served they expect they’re always going to get the bigger piece,” Rueff said.

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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