Now that the foundation of tech employer branding – cool perks and benefits – has moved to the bottom of workers’ priorities post-layoffs, internal comms can refocus on work-life balance to build a more supportive culture.

Tech jobs are no longer cool

Up until recently, tech roles, particularly among major players such as Meta, Alphabet and Amazon, were often considered some of the most desirable jobs available. These positions offered candidates six-figure salaries, lavish perks, and the prospect of being at innovation’s forefront.

Since the summer of 2022, the cuts, layoffs and uncertainty have meant that working for these types of companies has become less desirable. According to Indeed’s Best Jobs of 2024, only three in its top 25 are tech roles versus 11 in its 2023 edition.

The industry report showed that it’s not just job seekers put off by tech roles but also current employees who are feeling disenchanted and beginning to look for jobs outside the sector they once competed to work in.

Internal comms needs to rethink “culture”

When a firm or a whole industry is struggling with dissatisfied employees, we would say it has a “culture problem”. That’s a big problem for the internal communication (IC) department whose main purpose is to support culture and belonging.

This issue also extends to external communications, as more communications leaders now expect employee engagement to be a key part of their role. In some cases this shift displaces some traditional public relations responsibilities, such as media relations, from the top.

So how can tech IC address the culture problem post layoffs?

A data-driven approach for employee-centred culture

In tech, workplace culture has long meant complementing high salaries and growth opportunities with free benefits, in state-of-the-art offices where gourmet chefs and meditation rooms were sending a clear message: “we really want you here”.

But the brutal way layoffs were conducted sent quite the opposite message. Getting more gourmet chefs and meditation rooms is unlikely to fix this damage. We think that in the post-layoffs tech era, tech should reframe culture by taking a deep-dive into what motivates and deters workers.

We looked at the employee reviews of 10 tech giants – Google, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, SAP, Salesforce, Cisco, IBM, Dell and Paypal – analysing 500 reviews per company published on job review websites between February-March 2024, when the layoffs were at their height.

Interestingly, we found that a good work-life balance often outweighed benefits and career growth opportunities as employees valued flexibility and personal time over perks and career development.

Benefits and perks – a key driver of tech employer branding – were actually at the bottom of the list as tech employees are not as enticed by them anymore.

Work-life balance was especially valued at Google, Microsoft and Salesforce:

Likewise, long working hours were the most often mentioned criticism among employees. This was frequently mentioned at companies like Meta, Amazon, Paypal and IBM. Alongside this, a high-stress environment and pressure to perform were also significant concerns, with employees at Meta and Amazon noting the demanding nature of their jobs.

This has also affected the CEOs’ image among workers. Inadequate care for employee well-being was a common complaint against tech CEOs, particularly against Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Andy Jassy, IBM’s Arvind Krishna and PayPal’s Dan Schulman.

The bottom line

Our data suggests that post-layoffs, the doctrine of tech employer branding – cool perks and benefits – has moved to the bottom of workers’ priorities. As Big Tech lost its glamour, having personal time and flexibility is now more highly valued even than career growth and being at the forefront of innovation.

Tech companies that put these values at the core of their work culture would have a clear advantage at a time when many CEOs have cracked down on remote work, making the return to office a disciplinary issue.

To make tech jobs cool again, tech internal comms can switch their focus on work-life balance by emphasising things like the importance of flexibility, productivity over hours and personalised support in high-stress situations.