This is a guest post from Robert Jones, a freelance writer based in the north of England. He covers various subjects but is particularly interested in business ethics.
Tech firms are often thought of as inherently cool places to work, not least thanks to their (often rather overblown!) reputations for constructing airy, gadget-filled employee spaces that more closely resemble giant hangout zones than traditional cubicle-based office floors.
Admittedly, a few headline-grabbing features at one or two of the more infamously wacky workplaces do tend to distort the overall picture somewhat – giant indoor slides, for example, are rather more common than you’d think/hope. Whatever, the point is that tech companies just seem to have earned a reputation for being fun, relaxed, individual-focussed employers, adept in leveraging all manner of perceived perks and benefits to reward (or indeed buy) corporate loyalty in what remains a relatively incestuous, high staff turnover industry.
So what, in reality, is day-to-day working life really like for the privileged minority handpicked for duty at these benevolent, fun-loving, young-at-heart multinationals? And more importantly, how genuinely satisfied are they in their current jobs? In an attempt to answer that very question, online salary, benefits and compensation company PayScale carried out a recent research project that saw them delve into numerous employee demographics across a wide variety of tech corporations including Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Tesla and more.
For each company studied, PayScale charted employee perceptions of job satisfaction against a range of variables, such as early/mid-career median pay, average age, number of years at the company, and total years of industry experience. The results certainly make for interesting reading – especially when compiled into a series of eye-opening infographics.
What, if anything, can we deduce from their findings?
Well, for one thing, it seems that there’s a pretty linear inverse correlation between median age and overall job satisfaction. Broadly speaking, the older a tech company’s workforce is on average, they less readily individuals seem to report that they find their jobs especially rewarding. Indeed, according to the data charts, employees at IBM, Hewlett Packard and Oracle – the only three businesses studied whose median employee age is over 35 – returned the lowest-scoring feedback in terms of overall job satisfaction.
Whether or not this has anything to do with the provision, or lack thereof, of table tennis in the meeting room is something of a moot point. (For the record, we don’t believe any of the three global giants mentioned above especially go in for the whole ‘adult soft play’ vibe at their international headquarters. Although we’re happy to bet they at least have some pretty nice coffee machines.)
It does, however, raise a slightly weightier question around the inherently youth-focussed nature of so much of today’s upstart tech industry, and whether this could eventually prove problematic in the longer term as more loyal workforces begin to age with their employers’ businesses.
Rather more worth of close attention is the apparent ‘revelation’ (!) that job satisfaction tends to correlate directly with median pay rates. Those companies whose staff reported lower levels of job satisfaction are also the ones, predictably enough, coming in lower down the average salary scale. Additionally, the same brands appear to employ among the longest-serving and most experienced workforces across the entire field of study.
Maybe the real implication here is that, for tech staff at most levels, there’s an industry ceiling that you can ascend to fairly quickly but that subsequently proves tough to move beyond, resulting in a degree of stagnation.
In terms of assembling an overall picture, the takeaway here is that, yes, on the whole tech company employees do tend to be relatively young, relatively well paid and relatively satisfied with their job roles. That’s hardly surprising really, given that these companies frequently turn up on all manner of global ‘Best Employer’ lists. Still, whether or not things will stay that way in the long-run appears to be far more open to debate.
Regardless of what the recent startup marketplace might suggest, not everyone currently entering their second year at Facebook will be running their own indie development agency by then. For those that do choose to remain on their company’s books going forward, it will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on similar satisfaction studies undertaken in five, ten or even twenty years’ time.