The road ahead


    Every year, readers nationwide anxiously anticipate the annual CE News Salary Survey, which has become one of the many industry standards used by employees, managers, and human resources professionals to monitor salaries for civil engineers.

    This year, as Editor Bob Drake reports in the cover story (see page 30), everyone should be pleased with the findings, which indicate that the profession has been traveling along a smooth, well-maintained road – just the type any civil engineer desires to traverse, both literally and figuratively! With healthy raises and bonuses reported in 2004, the results of Drake’s analysis correlate with what would be expected of the strong economy most regions have been experiencing.

    As one would hope, firms must be employing best practices relating to retaining and recruiting staff.

    Judging by the raises, bonuses, and salaries reported by respondents, firms have been executing the appropriate actions of monitoring markets, competitors’ compensation packages, published salary surveys, and department of labor benchmarks.

    Besides conducting comparisons regularly, firms with strong compensation programs are critical of their rates of pay and take measures to ensure fairness among staff, considering positions and levels of responsibility.

    Many firms commit to an annual, internal audit to ensure standards are met such as standard base pay for employees doing comparable work.

    According to some firms that participated in the CE News Best Civil Engineering Firm To Work For Contest last year, such audits are followed up with adjustments if needed, regardless of employee performance or pay increase schedules such as anniversary dates.

    Some firms mentioned that they hire consultants to assist with such audits, while others perform them internally.

    Top firms in the contest also shared that they believe it is important to distribute information about compensation norms and standards to all levels of staff with authority over pay. It is important that managers in all offices and in all departments are ensuring fair compensation.

    Based on results of the Employee Satisfaction Survey, which was taken by 12,000 employees of firms participating in the 2004 contest, fair and equitable compensation for the work you do” was the most important compensation-oriented benefit firms provide.

    Following, in order of importance, are a retirement plan, merit raises, a matching percentage for retirement plan, fair distribution of company profits, cost of living adjustments, cash bonuses for individual performance, and cash bonuses for company performance.

    With fair and equitable compensation topping this list of important offerings, firms must diligently conduct regular compensation comparisons to stay competitive with other firms and complete audits for ensuring equitable pay internally, as well as share their findings and objectives with all managers.

    While no one can predict how well civil engineers will be paid in the future, we can make an educated guess that the road ahead will be in good condition. The need for civil engineers is strong, as evidenced by essentially every report quantifying the need for infrastructure improvements, as well as the new infrastructure requirements associated with population projections. Of course, to ensure our economic well being as an industry, and therefore as individual professionals, we must not allow our services to be commoditized, but that is a topic for another day!

    Shanon Fauerbach, P.E.