Are you fairly compensated for the time you put in? This question is a complicated – and sensitive – one in which answers almost entirely depend on individual circumstances. With that being said, we recently asked it to our Twitter followers at @SFM_Magazine. The results say that wages in the sports turf industry still aren’t up to par: 78 percent of our poll respondents said they don’t make enough, compared to 21 percent who said their salary is fair.

salary twitter pollThese statistics can be interpreted in a number of ways. A couple of points to keep in mind:

  • Multiple national surveys conducted for a range of jobs reveal employee satisfaction is typically not driven solely by salary, nor are wages necessarily the most important factor in job satisfaction. But salary has shown to rank higher on the satisfaction scale when certain circumstances exist.
  • The ranking of salary might be lower in the absence of other benefits (vacation days, bonuses, retirement plan, full health coverage, etc.), or the presence of negative aspects in the workplace (poor working conditions, poor supervision, lack of professional development opportunities, etc.).
  • Financial needs differ between people. Your financial need is greater if you’re trying to raise a family, pay for a college education or perhaps care for an extended family member. If you’re struggling to meet those needs, then satisfaction with your salary might be lower, all things being equal.

In 2015, SFM spoke with Minnesota Twins head groundskeeper Larry DiVito about salaries, specifically those of Minor League Baseball sports turf managers. The conversation with DiVito centered around how an experienced, proven head groundskeeper at an MiLB facility reported to SFM that his annual salary was $24,000 (in addition to receiving living expenses to pay for his monthly rent). “General managers feel like they have an endless supply of labor,” DiVito told SFM. “With an oversupply of people wanting to work in sports, they can keep wages down.”

During the summer of 2016, the Sports Turf Managers Association surveyed its members on compensation and benefits. The STMA reported that in every category of membership – College/University, K-12 Schools, Parks and Recreation and Semi-Pro/Professional – salaries have increased 10 percent since 2012.

“We all work for money. We need to be paid to have security in our lives and food and shelter and all of that,” Kelly Marinelli, an HR consultant and member of the Society for Human Resource Management’s expert panel, told SFM sister publication Tree Services earlier this year. “We may love our jobs and where we work … but there’s no shame in trying to be paid what the market your values your work to be.”

It only makes sense, then, that the best way to make more money is to increase the value of your work. For employees who feel they deserve a pay raise, Marinelli says that the best approach is “to talk about the value you are bringing to the company.”

It’s important to have specifics and think through what you’re going to say before initiating the discussion, says Marinelli. And she cautions against focusing just on your longevity with your employer; while that’s one part of the equation, it’s not as important as emphasizing your value to the company. “My best advice is always to be ready to talk about what you’re bringing to the table,” she says.

One strategy that Marinelli advises against is basing a demand for a raise on what another organization may be offering. “It’s always good to know what you’re worth in the market, but bringing up market data to try to get leverage for a pay increase is dangerous,” says Marinelli. “Your employer may feel that you’re a very valuable team member … but if you’re continuously bringing up how you could get more money somewhere else, they may question your commitment.”

That said, if you’re underpaid, “you need to know about it … if you’re a high-performer and others are paid better at other locations, that’s not bad information to have in your back pocket,” she adds. In such a case, Marinelli suggests you tell your employer you want to commit to them long-term, so that maybe it’s time for an “equitable increase” in pay to bring you up to where the market is.