Date: Jul 10, 2013
July 2013: 2013 Comp and HR Practices Survey

Employee salaries and costs associated with employee benefit plans, cash and non-cash reward programs comprise a large percentage of an organization’s operating expenses.  Current, reliable market data provides business leaders with a point of reference to the competitive market to assist in reviewing an organization’s compensation philosophy and total reward programs.  Western Growers Compensation and Human Resources Practices survey data provides a resource for executive management to compare cash compensation and benefit plan levels with their peers.

This is the fourth annual survey completed by members of Western Growers. This year, we split the survey into two components:  Human Resources practices and cash compensation.  Participants had the option to participate in one or both surveys, and receive survey results free of charge for the survey(s) in which they participated.  The H.R. Practices survey reports on participants health plan coverage and premiums, performance plans, merit increase budgets, paid time off programs, retirement plans, and austerity measures.  The Compensation survey reports base pay, incentives paid, total annual cash compensation, and car allowance/reimbursement for business expense.

So what are some of the findings of the survey this year?

Human Resources Practices

There are some positive indicators relative to the agriculture industry, although 2012 was a tough year for some commodities.  Survey participants report they are hiring again and 18 percent have increased their merit budgets, migrating from the 2 to 3 percent range to a 3 to 4 percent merit increase budget.  This is consistent with other industries on a national and local level, with average 2013 merit increases targeted at 3.2 percent.  First quarter total cash compensation increases on average nationally were 3.5 percent.  Over the term of the recession, many cost-cutting measures were taken such as eliminating salary increases, eliminating bonus plan eligibility and payments, cutting pay, and extending performance reviews and merit increase consideration from 12 months to 18 months.  Now companies are trying to determine how to best return to pre-recession total reward program delivery in order to keep current employees whole and to be in a position to attract and hire new employees.

Companies that find themselves in a hiring position are, in some cases, redesigning their jobs in an attempt to get as much “bang for their buck” as they can.  Some traditional roles and jobs are going by the wayside in exchange for combining responsibilities and required skill sets that may not have previously existed in a single job.  Hybrid jobs are being created where an employee is required to wear more than one hat.  For example, the traditional role  is evolving for some companies to include marketing skills.  In information technology, some companies opt to hire employees that bring a combination of technical and business and/or project management skills, as opposed to the strictly technical skills.

Of interest is the information on health insurance premiums which is of paramount concern this year with the Affordable Care Act becoming law on January 1, 2014.  The survey data showed that larger employers increased their premiums for 2012 and 2013, while smaller employers, on average, did not.  This change resulted in employees’ monthly out-of-pocket expenses being very similar between small and large companies.  With all of the changes taking place with ACA, we will do a critical review of the health plan section of the survey to ensure we are gathering data pertinent to the current environment.



We added six jobs to the 2013 survey in response to members’ requests, and are reporting pay for job families in:  accounting/finance management; sales management; food safety management, and field management.  The survey pay data supports the progression within the job families.  For example in field management, the base and total cash for a senior level field supervisor is approximately 20 percent more than that for an intermediate field supervisor. 


Purchasing the Surveys

This is just some of the information you will find available to you in the 2013 Western Growers Compensation and H.R. Practices Surveys.  The survey data is free to all those who took the time and effort to complete the survey.  Those 80 member companies are receiving the results electronically, as well as a hard copy, and the opportunity to attend a webinar presentation that reviews the highlights of the survey and presents scenarios on how to use and interpret the survey data, along with the opportunity to get specific questions answered.  We thank all those who participated and sincerely appreciate the time spent and hope you return for next year’s survey.  We are developing a core group of repeat participants — “pioneers” for the advancement of benchmarking data for the agriculture and produce industry.  Repeat participation by member companies will allow us to report real year-over-year changes in cash compensation, and begin reporting trends.

If you did not complete the survey, as members you can purchase the Compensation survey results for $1,500 and the H.R. Practices survey for $500, or both for $1800.  The final results will be available for purchase online in early July at, or by contacting Karen Timmins,Western Growers vice president of human resources at or 949-885-2295.



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Western Growers members care deeply for the food they grow, the land they sustain, the people they employ, and the community in which they live. 

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