Increasing Employee Engagement: Yes, Even in Tech Companies!

Technology companies have established a reputation for being a Mecca of over-the-top employee benefits: all-day long gourmet food (free!), nap rooms, ping-pong tables, and other workplace enhancements. Add to that strong sector growth, exciting work, and plenty of opportunities – how could it get any better for employees?

As you would expect, tech employees are very engaged. According to the TINYpulse ranking of happiest (and unhappiest) industries, Technology employees are the third happiest, after consumer package goods and real estate. But according to another TINYpulse survey taking a more in-depth look at employment in the tech sector, there is always room for improvement.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Attrition Risk. When asked to rate their likelihood of being with the same company for 12 months, on a ten-point scale, tech employees gave an average response of 7.95, compared to 8.49 for the previous year. (The average response on this question over all industries is 8.19.) While all companies face a cost when employees leave, it is probably worse in the tech industry, where so much of their potential is in the minds of their employees. And with high-demand for experienced tech employees, this is a real threat to tech sector companies.
  • Company Criticism. While tech employees rate their companies on par with other industries regarding communications and transparency, all is not well. Tech companies are seeing some serious decline in employees’ ratings of management:
    • Only 73% of tech employees answered “yes” to the question “Are we a better company than we were six months ago? This is a decline of 89% last year.
    • Additionally, the question “On a scale of one to ten, how cohesive is the management team?” received an average rating of 7.29, down from 8.00 last year.

Research has repeatedly shown that employee perceptions of leadership are key factors in employee engagement. In a high-growth industry like tech, these numbers should be improving – not declining.

  • Lack of Understanding Customers. When employees feel at odds with management and customers and partners, their confidence in the company lags. Both measures are dropping:
    • Average responses to the question “On a scale of one to ten, how in touch is our leadership team with our customers’ needs?” were 7.37, down from 7.88 last year.
    • The percent of employees affirmatively answering the question “Do you feel that we effectively leverage external partners to be more successful?” is 54%, down from 67% last year.
  • Lack of Employee Development. Research consistently links opportunities for employee growth and development to employee satisfaction. Regarding supporting employees in exploring professional interests and goals as well as giving recognition for great work, the tech industry either stayed the same as last year or made modest gains. However, there are weaknesses:
  • Only half of employees (51%), said they had a mentor at work.
  • And on the question, “On a scale of one to ten, how effective is your organization at offering help when you ask for it?” average response was 7.78, down from 8.25 last year.
  • Less Open to Feedback and Change. Surprisingly for an industry with a reputation for embracing and celebrating change, employees rate their organizations lower this year than last:
  • Average responses to the question “On a scale of one to ten, how seriously and effectively does your organization take your feedback and suggestions?” were 7.36, down from 7.58 last year.
  • Average responses to the question “On a scale of one to ten, how open to change are we as an organization?” were 7.39, down from 8.00 last year.

Are these just signs of growing pains in a successful industry? Perhaps. Comparing the tech sector to other industries, show the tech sector becoming more like the average. That may not necessarily be a bad thing, but for an industry relying on innovation and employee contributions, employee engagement is key. Tech company management, take note! These results should raise concern about the future direction of employee satisfaction and engagement.

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