What Do Tech Workers Really Want?

tech workers

When we think about today’s tech workplace, we often picture a number of high-profile perks: ping-pong tables, on-site gyms and elaborate snack bars, to name a few. But perks won’t keep staff satisfied if there are fundamental differences between what they want and what the company can provide.

So what’s really most important to today’s tech staff? To find out, Indeed surveyed 1,000 U.S. tech workers, examining the factors they consider when evaluating a new company or job. Here’s what they told us.

Almost all tech workers value transparency from leadership

When we ask tech workers what’s important to them, the answer is quite a lot. Looking at what characteristics they value most in a company, topping the list is transparency from leadership, which a whopping 89% of workers deem important. This is followed closely by the company giving back to the community (valued by 79% of respondents) and sharing their values (key for 78%).

When we look across age groups, we find that older and younger workers prioritize different things. For example, workers age 55 and over value transparency in leadership more than any other age group, with 97% saying it’s important to them — possibly due to experiencing the impact of many different leadership styles over the course of their careers. Slightly younger age groups (ages 35 to 44 and 45 to 54) find giving back and sharing values more important qualities in a workplace. And the youngest workers (ages 18 to 24) rank workplace flexibility and the opportunity to learn new skills at the top of their lists.

To tech talent, fancy offices with quantifiable perks may actually be less alluring than more intangible benefits, such as the openness of company leaders, charitable giving initiatives and the company’s brand values. Emphasizing these qualitative aspects of your workplace will likely have a stronger impact when talking to potential candidates than will physical assets, such as the company’s cutting-edge technology.

Flexible work hours are more important than working from home or remotely

Flexibility is something people often associate with tech — so we asked those respondents who value a flexible workplace (83%) for more details. Looking at what aspects of flexibility are most important to them, the winner is variable work hours (cited by 58%). This is followed by the ability to work from home, which one quarter value the highest, and remote-work options (crucial to 14%).

Providing flexible work options is an area where companies can stand out: According to recent research by the Harvard Business Review, almost all workers (96%) say they need a flexible workplace, but less than half (47%) actually get the types of flexibility they need. The problem is even more pronounced for women, with only 34% getting their needs met. And just slightly more than one quarter of workers have access to a sufficiently flexible schedule.

Offering flexibility at work makes it easier for workers to manage different areas of life, such as caring for children and aging parents, as well as taking care of themselves. And since flexibility tends to lead to productivity, it’s a win for employers, too.

Top perks and benefits involve self-improvement

When we ask tech workers which benefit they value most at their current company, a common theme emerges: self-improvement, whether in the form of employee development or tuition reimbursement initiatives (which 32% say are most important) or health and wellness programs (topping the list for 30% of respondents). In-office perks, such as free snacks and beverages or the ability to bring their pets to work, are less important (cited by 12% and 8%, respectively).

Those who value employee development are wise to invest in themselves — in the digital age, the skills needed to perform a job are often change, and almost half of workers in a recent study are concerned about the transient nature of work. Luckily, employee development is the area human resources professionals plan to invest in the most in 2019.

As for health and wellness, a survey by United Healthcare finds most employees (53%) who participate in company-sponsored programs experience a positive impact on their health, while 73% of workers who don’t have access to a wellness program want one. Employers are picking up on this trend, too, with 70% now offering wellness initiatives (up from 58% in 2008).

Workers want advancement and flexibility in a new job 

Aside from considering what is important to tech workers in their current workplace, we wanted to know what they look for in a new job. When evaluating a new position, pay is still what matters most, cited by almost all respondents (93%). But a number of factors follow right behind: flexibility in hours and location (chosen by 92%); the opportunity for career advancement (deemed important by 91%); opportunities for learning and education (selected by 91%); and whether the company has a reputation for ethical behavior (selected by 90%).

Strikingly, even though “pay and benefits” is the top consideration when choosing a new job, 92% of respondents would be willing to make less money in exchange for one of the other factors listed.

When we ask tech workers what they would be willing to take a pay cut for, nearly half opt for career advancement. Following closely behind, 49% say they would accept less money in exchange for flexibility.

According to the American Psychological Association, lack of career advancement is a serious source of stress to workers, second only to insufficient pay. For the sake of retention, it’s in employers’ best interest to support internal career advancement: 93% of role changes in the U.S. come from workers taking a job at another company.

One easy option? Carve out time for employees to take advantage of existing opportunities. Most workers (61%) say they have access to career development resources, but only 52% have the time to utilize them. Block off a few hours a week for employees to dedicate to learning and development — and, of course, make sure you offer opportunities for advancement to workers who earn them. 

Diversity is important in every area of business

Diversity is crucial to today’s tech workers. When we ask about the value of diversity in a variety of settings — in leadership, the company, their department and on their team — over eight in 10 say each one is “somewhat” or “very important” to them.

Looking more closely, diversity is slightly more important to women than to men. This isn’t surprising, given that women are still in the minority at many tech firms.

To hire and retain tech workers, make sure efforts and initiatives are in place to promote diversity and inclusion — both among candidates and existing employees. Consider creating a role for an inclusion leader at your company, and include employees themselves as much as possible when planning diversity programs; this will keep efforts authentic and ensure you are supporting things workers actually care about.

Finally, publicize these efforts throughout your recruiting process, on the company website and through social media. One inspiring example comes from Johnson & Johnson, who supported one trans employee during their transition through employee resource groups, an inclusive medical policy and a dedicated communication plan to make coming back to work as easy as possible.

Focus on the right things to attract tech talent

Though it may be tempting to make quirky perks the center of attention in talent attraction, it appears that larger, fundamental factors are more appealing to today’s tech workers. This holds true for both the company itself and for aspects and benefits of specific positions. 

Career advancement, flexibility, diversity and transparency in leadership are top of the list in what workers value. Given that the labor market is so tight — especially in the field of tech — it’s important to ensure that companies and recruiters are aligned on what candidates are looking for. Offer what workers want, and you can grab the attention of top talents.

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