Siliconfidential: What tech workers tell us about tech and the future

Survey: Optimism abounds among tech workers, despite looming challenges

Brunswick Group conducted a survey of Bay Area technology workers to better understand the health of the industry, market opportunities, impending threats, confidence in leadership, and the importance of strategic communication.

Among the survey’s key findings:  

Technology company employees are optimistic about the future, but there are signs of caution.

• Despite negative media coverage of the tech community over the past year, optimism about the future remains high.

- 51% of tech workers believe the region’s best days are ahead, compared to only 11% who say its best days are over.

This optimism is driven by a strong belief that products and services from tech companies are good for society (82% say their products do more good than not).

An optimistic outlook may continue over the next 12 months, as 67% of tech employees expect their companies to add additional staff.

Warning signs: while workers expect to see more jobs open, finding and recruiting talent is becoming harder.

50% say it is more difficult to fill vacancies with qualified talent than it was a year ago.

Not only is it harder to hire, but 41% of younger tech workers (18-34) say they plan to leave the Bay Area in the next 12 months, creating a tension between growth expectations and employee retention.

China predicted to be most serious regional rival to San Francisco Bay Area.

• 49% of workers anticipate another region will emerge as a center of innovation, posing a serious threat to the Bay Area’s dominance.

China is viewed as the most likely competitor, with 74% of respondents expecting the country to be a greater competitive threat in the next 5 years. They also named Austin, Texas as the most likely rival for innovation growth in the U.S.

• Among technologies, artificial intelligence is overwhelmingly expected to be the most transformative to society in the next 10 years. Respondents also believe that companies will need to address concerns from the public and regulators about the uses of AI.

• On regulatory issues, 55% of workers expect more government regulation in the next 5 years. However, this regulation isn’t necessarily unwelcome.

- 39% of workers want technology companies to be regulated more than they are now, compared to 24% who want to see less regulation.

A long-standing open, creative culture makes the Bay Area unique — and employees will speak out if senior leaders do not live up to key values.

63% of tech workers view the Bay Area as an innovation hub that is difficult to replicate elsewhere especially because of the area’s openness to new ideas. This is seen to be more important than venture money or the area’s world-class universities.

• The open culture within tech companies helps drive innovation because workers feel their big ideas could be adopted and rewarded.

-  68% say they would be rewarded for a big idea at work, compared to only 49% of U.S. employees* who say the same.

• Culture starts at the top among tech employees. There is strong support for CEOs and founders, but trust in them is dependent on frequent and transparent communication to the company.

- 75% of workers have a positive view of their CEO or founder, but this measure depends on how frequently leaders communicate to everyone about strategies and decisions.

• An open culture also requires accountability. 70% of Bay Area tech workers would speak out against things that violate company values, and 41% would leak confidential information to the media if they did not trust senior management to behave in line with company values. 

About: Brunswick Insight conducted an online survey of n=300 employees at technology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area January 25 – February 8, 2019. Participants were selected from a third-party opt-in panel and sample was stratified across gender, job title, and type of technology company. This is the first annual survey which will be used to help track sentiment of tech employees in the Bay Area.

 

*Comparative data is from a separate Brunswick Insight study conducted among n=600 U.S. employees February 23-26, 2018.

The full report can be accessed here or download the infographic.