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November 18, 2019 Chandra Philip-Lye

Startup employees happier than tech giant workers, survey finds

Over 60 percent of startup employees were happy in their jobs, compared to just over 30 percent of those at big tech companies.

Good news for small businesses as people working at startups rank their lives as happier than those at major tech organizations like Google, Facebook and Amazon, a new survey has found. 

The research, conducted by Blind and AngelList Blog, asked respondents questions related to workplace satisfaction. They discovered that over 60 percent of startup employees were happy in their jobs, compared to just over 30 percent of those at big tech companies. 

Results also show that 58 percent of workers at Amazon were not happy in their jobs compared with 54 percent at Microsoft, 50 percent at Apple, 48 percent at Facebook and 45 percent at Google. 

For the survey, respondents indicated that the opportunity to grow in their careers impacted their satisfaction with their jobs more than the amount of money they earned. 

Money isn’t everything

The top four reasons listed by employees who prefer working at startups include opportunities to grow, develop their skills, peer learning situations and the chance to tackle challenging problems. These workers did not cite money as factoring into their response, but respondents from big tech companies did note that money played a factor in their unhappiness.  

For 17 percent of unhappy employees, compensation was one of the big reasons. Many said they felt they were not being paid what they were worth. In fact, despite a 25 percent increase in the median pay at Google, employees have indicated that money does not equal happiness. 

According to Wired, the average pay at Google parent Alphabet increased to $246,804 last year. At the same time, Facebook saw median salaries of $228,651. The average worker at Twitter earns $172,709 and employees at Intel make around $106,900.

Yet employees at these major tech organizations noted the lack of career growth, work-life balance and their feelings they were not making what they were worth impacted their overall happiness on the job. 

For employers, this can signal an employee engagement problem. 

Risk of poor employee engagement

Most employers understand that employee happiness is connected to the individual’s engagement in the office. Moreover, employees who are not engaged with their jobs or the company can be costly. 

Research has found that employees who are happy and engaged in their work will be more productive and take fewer sick days off work. Employees who have poor engagement levels with their employers are more likely to be absent from work and not to strive for high productivity levels. This all has a financial impact on the companies that employee them. 

In addition, workers who are unhappy and leave their jobs within the first year are expensive to replace. Some estimates state it can cost between six and nine months’ salary. Others estimate the cost to be twice as much as the employee’s salary. Either way, it is an added cost for employers. 

According to the satisfaction survey, workers at Amazon (31 percent), Facebook (28 percent) and Microsoft (26 percent) were the most likely to leave their companies in the next six months. Twenty-one percent of employees at Apple have their eye on the door. While the same number of respondents from Google also plan to leave their job in the next few months. 

Yet, even if the unengaged employee does not leave the company, their negative attitude can bring down the morale of other employees and create an atmosphere of discontentment. 

Good news for small employers

The results of the survey show that money or costly incentives do not always keep employees satisfied. Rather, respondents indicated that smaller businesses were happier places to work. 

Workers that have opportunities to grow within the company, to acquire new skills, learn from peers and working on interesting projects or problems are more likely to have high engagement and happier work life. 

Chandra Philip-Lye

Chandra Philip-Lye is a freelance journalist based in the Lower Mainland. She has experience in print journalism, television newcasting and online publications. You can see more of her work at http://chandralye.pressfolios.com/.