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How Satisfied are Tech Employees in Their Jobs?

How Satisfied are Tech Employees in Their Jobs?

It’s often assumed that jobs in the tech industry – which today’s young graduates are snapping up in ever-greater numbers – are all about freedom of expression, creativity, individuality, and of course those infamously quirky office campuses packed with gadgetry, bean bags and foosball tables.

However, according to a recent study by online salary and benefits analysis company PayScale, the overall picture of job satisfaction in the tech industry might be a little more complicated than that. As seen below, when the data from survey respondents was compiled into a series of infographics, some interesting trends started to emerge.

The study

Employees at 17 companies were featured in the study, representing staff at many of the biggest names in the tech industry – among the most notable brands included are such global giants as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.

In terms of the workers themselves, a broad range of demographics were covered based on compensation data in conjunction with numerous other key metrics. These included such stats as such as early- and mid-career median pay levels, number of years of industry experience, and length of service with the current employer.

As the infographics clearly show, there’s a distinct correlation between average pay levels and perceived job satisfaction for both newer recruits and longer-serving staff members. That’s hardly surprising, of course – the same is true of pretty much any industry one could name. (Indeed, renowned business guru Daniel Pink suggests in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us that “paying people enough to take the issue of money off the table” – in other words, paying just enough to ensure that they’re not distracted at work by financial worries at home – is arguably the most effective way to achieve consistently better workplace performance and a more loyal employee base.)

What’s more interesting, though, is the fact that the data suggests a much more complex picture of overall satisfaction levels when it comes to employee age, length of contract and overall levels of industry experience.


What can we infer from the graphs?

Looking at the data, employee age appears to be one of the principal factors affecting overall job satisfaction scores. (And of course, age is also directly related to various other metrics, such as number of years in the industry; despite the tech world being known for relatively high rates of staff turnover, particularly as less senior recruits gain experience and start to seek more responsibility, there is clearly a significant subgroup of workers who do stay with their companies for much longer periods.)

What’s interesting is that the oldest and the longest-serving employees in the study group also appear to have reported back with the lowest levels of overall job satisfaction. Of the companies analysed, only three had a median staff age of 35 or higher: IBM, Hewlett Packard and Oracle. And, as the infographics show, it’s these three that also score the lowest for job satisfaction levels.

Naturally, this fact alone doesn’t point to any direct conclusion about the wider industry, but it certainly offers grounds for speculation. For one thing, it could be that average age rankings at these three companies are skewed by a handful of much older individuals – perhaps even long-term board members or senior executives who’ve been around since the business was founded.

Moreover, it could be that older and more experienced staff across all industries simply tend to be less optimistic and more aware of the year-on-year challenges of their jobs, as opposed to recent recruits with much less experience and unrealistic expectations of the opportunities that lie ahead.

However, it could indeed be that the tech industry’s tendency to appeal to younger workforces – again, it’s an incredibly popular choice for thousands of new graduates ever year – is actively alienating older and longer-serving workers, resulting in a less satisfying experience for those who stay on through wave after wave of annual graduate recruitment drives. We know from numerous industry watchdog reports that tech employees tend to be overwhelmingly young, white and male: perhaps this also impacts on the longer-term job satisfaction of longer-serving staff, who become increasingly socially isolated in the workplace as time goes by.

A word of caution

One thing to bear in mind when aiming to draw conclusions from the infographics is that the key term - ‘job satisfaction’ – doesn’t get a very clear definition. Without knowing exactly what each demographic studied meant by this when the scores were collated, it’s very difficult to arrive at any concrete diagnosis.

In Pink’s book Drive, the author suggests that the three core factors in satisfying and rewarding work are ‘autonomy, mastery and purpose’ – in other words, how independently responsible we are, how competent in our roles we feel, and how much we care about the outcomes of what we’re doing. And in fact, Pink’s model could go some way to explaining why the tech industry as a whole appears so geared towards those millennial graduates clamouring to join the Google, Facebook or Apple teams every year.

Today’s young people tend to expect a far greater degree of autonomy at work than staff did 10 or 20 years ago: they’re the first generation to begin their career paths in an era where everything can be done remotely online, regardless of time or location – for today’s graduates, the idea of a central office hub with a boss at the end of the hall has dramatically reduced in importance.

Furthermore, this same idea of permanent online connectivity means the concept mastery has taken on a new importance for young workers today. With digital technologies rapidly chipping away at the notion of a universally standard 9-5 shift, young people’s work and social lives are more seamlessly blended now than ever before, and so feeling competent in their job roles can quickly take on much wider significance in terms of their lives outside work.

If the data suggests that the typical tech employee is indeed relatively young, well-paid and happy at work, then perhaps the above factors might offer a better explanation than the basic assumption of any inherent ‘bias’? Then again, one Bloomberg report last year noted that Silicon Valley’s top 150 companies had collectively been sued 226 times in cases relating to alleged age discrimination between 2008-2016 – perhaps the only real way to work out what’s going on will be to revisit this data in another 5-10 years, and see whether today’s new recruits have modified their outlook over time.


Morgan Franklin is a freelance writer, editor and designer who is interested in business ethics, workplace equality, startups and entrepreneurship. Morgan's professional background runs the gamut from marketing and PR to journalism and copywriting, as well as a little graphic design and illustration. These days Morgan writes largely about businesses, from startups to large corporations, and has a great interest in the ways enterprises look after their employees. Morgan lives in the UK with his family and a couple of cats. You can find some of Morgan's work at the Ecardshack blog
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Tresha D. Moreland, MBA, MS, FACHE, SPHR, SSBBP, founder of HR C-Suite, is an HR thought leader in Human Resource Strategic Management. She has held key human resource leadership roles for over 20 years in multiple industries most recently a senior vice president in the healthcare industry. Tresha is the founder and publisher of HR C-Suite ( HR C-Suite is a game changer results-based HR strategy website. It is a first-of-it's-kind site that organizes HR strategy based on desired business result. She has developed a business philosophy of integrating human resources with business strategy, thus creating a hybrid HR leadership approach. This approach enables the leveraging human resources to achieve business results.

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