You only have to flick through the recruitment pages of the last few issues of The Grocer to see how many job vacancies there are at the moment. And it's very much a job hunter's market, says Liz Hamson

ored with your job? Well dust off that CV and get job hunting. A shortage of talent coupled with a surfeit of job vacancies is pushing manufacturing pay packages to record levels, according to the latest salary survey carried out exclusively for The Grocer by Croner Reward.
Basic salaries are up across the board, according to the survey, which was based on 2,066 responses from across the food and drink manufacturing sector - up a third on last year. But the real story is in the record bonuses reported, particularly at the top of the food and drink tree.
Last year, directors reported an average bonus of £9,700. This year, they made a hefty £20,566 on top of their basic salaries. Senior managers have done even better, hauling in an average bonus of £18,500 this year compared with last year's £5,000.
The findings show that the pay gap between food and drink manufacturing and other industries has closed dramatically. This year senior managers are commanding salaries on a par with those in other industries, whereas last year they were 5.8% lower than the all-sector average. Across the food and drink manufacturing sector as a whole, people reported pay rises of about 3% - just above inflation - narrowing the gap with the all-sector average to 11% compared with last year's 20%. However, mid-tier salaries have barely moved, the survey found.
Vivienne Copeland, client services director, Croner Reward, says that employers are being forced to raise salaries in order to attract the right candidates. &aquot;Whether people are negotiating their own packages or employers are having to pay the going rate to attract the right people, the upshot is that both salaries and bonuses have gone up. It also seems to me that efforts are being made to reward senior people.&aquot;
The record bonuses reflect the shift to performance-related pay, she says. The downside is that there has been a slight fall in the percentage of people receiving bonuses, particularly at director level. &aquot;Employers are being more discerning about who they give a bonus to, but when they do give one, it seems a bit more substantial,&aquot; she says.
This is borne out by anecdotal evidence from recruitment consultants. Steve Marley, managing partner at Ashwood, says: &aquot;From a recruitment perspective, there's absolutely no doubt that, for senior people, salaries have risen considerably over the past few years. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the jobs they are doing are increasingly important to top manufacturers and, secondly, employers want to incentivise people to improve their performance.&aquot;
Employers are beginning to offer long-term incentive plans to prospective employees, he says. Most are opting for bonuses based on both company and the individual performances. &aquot;It's a much more performance-related culture. People who work in fmcg, particularly young people, need to see that modern approaches to remuneration are being adopted,&aquot; he says, not least because it is not only at senior levels that pay packages have jumped.
Chris Burns, MD of Food Careers, says: &aquot;I would say that at the lower end of the market, salaries have gone up 5% to 6%. The lower level positions are seen as hard to recruit for, making employers raise salaries.&aquot;
Jobseekers eyeing senior or junior level roles are in the strongest position, says Burns: &aquot;There are plenty of positions out there. There are probably more vacancies than candidates at the moment. The candidate seems to hold all the power.&aquot;
Ben Ballard, consultant team manager at recruitment consultants Pursuit NHA International, agrees: &aquot;It's more of a buyer's than a seller's market. But there are a lot of tactical packages to retain people.&aquot;
However, not everyone will benefit, warns Burns: &aquot;It's a good time to look for a job if you're good.&aquot;
Unfortunately, there aren't enough good candidates out there and internet recruitment sites have exacerbated the problem by increasing the volume of candidates at the expense of quality, says Ballard. Pursuit NHA prefers to run recruitment ads in magazines such as The Grocer, he says. &aquot;We're catching people who are not actively looking to move. It's not the volume but the quality of responses that is often better.&aquot;
Quality is an issue, agrees Tom Bursnall, senior consultant at Torres and Partners' fmcg practice: &aquot;Good calibre candidates are few and far between and will normally have two or three offers on the table. Companies that are not moving salaries up are finding it hard to recruit.&aquot;
Their task is not made easier by the fact that many people already in the industry seem to be happy to stay where they are. Indeed, the survey suggests that the level of perceived job security has risen from 57% to 68.2%, with just 11.9% of respondents saying they are seeking to move jobs compared with 30% last year. The high job satisfaction rating is all the more surprising given the consolidation that has taken place in food and drink manufacturing.
&aquot;Perversely, people do seem to be more settled, but it is very much at the smaller to medium sized companies - I'd normally associate that with bigger companies,&aquot; says Burns, suggesting that the reason for the anomaly is that most of the merger and acquisition activity - and therefore job uncertainty - has centred on the bigger companies.
However, he agrees, for those who do want to make a move, the incentives couldn't be better. &aquot;Benefits are improving in terms of car allowances and pension schemes. Employers are using the whole package to attract people. They are clearly going towards performance and delivery- related pay packages.&aquot;
Bursnall agrees: &aquot;The other big trend is flexible working from home. Employers are realising that if they want to widen the talent pool they have to widen the market.&aquot;
Marley is confident that manufacturers will improve pay packages further as the search continues for &aquot;fewer but better people&aquot;. Even so, Ballard urges applicants with pound signs in their eyes to be cautious. &aquot;There's a big gulf between a potential bonus and actual bonus.&aquot;
Employers must also beware, says Marley. &aquot;We've seen people who were disappointed that they didn't make their bonuses.&aquot;
In short, employers will have to pay what they promise if they want to attract and keep the best. n

Job security has risen from 57% to 68.2%, while the percentage of people looking for new jobs has dropped from 30% to 11.9%The average pay rise was 3% - just above inflation - and people expect a similar pay rise this yearThe number receiving child care vouchers has more than doubled - from 7% to 14.3%Employers pay 5% to 6% on average towards their employees' pension schemes - the same as last year43.2% of employees say they are expected to work outside normal hours - compared with 52% last year