Palmer Group and the Greater Des Moines Partnership, in an annual Iowa salary survey, found that more employers plan to give pay raises of more than 5 percent next year.

The largest share of Iowa companies, 54 percent, still plan to give raises of 3 to 4 percent, but that is down from 59 percent this year. At the same time, 12 percent plan to give raises of 5 percent or more next year, up from 7 percent this year. Another 25 percent plan to give raises of 1 to 2 percent next year (down from 28 percent) while 9 percent plan to give no raise (up from 6 percent). 

“As we look at careers in central Iowa with the focus on salary trends, our salary survey results have been consistent the past five years (2015-2019) with 58 percent of hiring authorities stating they are providing 3-4 percent pay increases,” David Leto, Palmer president, said in a statement. “These average salary increases are healthy, but not overboard given continuing drops in unemployment numbers.”

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.5 percent in September, according to Iowa Workforce Development. 


The difficulty some have in finding skilled workers also is putting pressure on companies to make the workplace even more inviting. The survey found 58 percent of the companies plan to add staff next year, with 39 percent holding steady and 3 percent expecting reductions.

“Undoubtedly, in addition to salaries increasing, companies are investing more and more in their office e
nvironments,” Leto said. “We continue to see construction all around us. Whether companies are moving into new buildings or remodeling their existing space, they are spending their resources to improve work environments for their employees. The aesthetics and functional capabilities of your work environment are as important as ever. Open, collaborative space is popular and companies who offer special amenities such as fitness centers, stand-up workstations, game rooms, lounge areas for meetings or relaxation, etc. are being noticed.”

In a recent panel discussion at the Business Record focusing on the 2019 labor market outlook, Leto said companies need to make sure they have the right people in the right position and to make sure they can keep them. “Our focus at Palmer Group, and what we try to talk to our clients about, is how do you keep your people engaged? How do you understand and make them understand their purpose with your organization? So that, to me, is the focus. There's going be a lot of movement in the market, people are looking, so I think the focus should be on retention strategy for companies.”

Of course, employers continue to look for more expansive and creative benefits packages in the war for labor. Leto sees companies offering volunteer time off, paid sabbaticals, wellness incentives, “adult recess,” company trip incentives, free food, off-site events, professional developing and a chance to be a shareholder, for example. 

Just don’t forget it’s not just about new recruits, Leto said. “These extra perks and benefits certainly help with your recruiting efforts when adding new employees to your company and in retaining your current team, but as employers, we all must remember to continue to recruit the individuals we currently employ.” Perks and acknowledgements help, he added.

If you are looking for a big paycheck, you might try your hand at being a chief financial officer at the home office, where you’ll likely be paid somewhere between $220,000 and $635,000, the survey found. A spot check found that workers who automate buildings make between $62,000 and $109,000 now, business analysts between $65,000 and $95,000, and call center managers $55,000 to $120,000. Executive administrative assistants are making $40,000 to $68,000 in this market.

Watch for our cover story on the labor market outlook later this month in the Business Record.