Tech workers love their jobs. They’re also leaving

PwC’s 2023 global workforce survey shows that, in a fast-moving sector, job satisfaction doesn’t always lead to retention. Here’s how tech CEOs can adapt.

The Leadership Agenda

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It’s a fundamental tenet of management: keep your people happy and they’ll stay. Yet technology companies may need a new playbook. In PwC’s 2023 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey, 64% of respondents in the tech sector said they were satisfied with their job or jobs—eight percentage points higher than the overall sample. A solid majority find their work fulfilling, have a high degree of autonomy in choosing how they do their work, and believe that their manager considers their input when making decisions. In these areas, tech performed better than any other sector. Yet tech employees are also more likely than the others to ask for a pay raise in the next 12 months, ask for a promotion or change employers.

Why the disparity? Tech employees may feel a stronger tie to the work they do—designing cool products and services that make an immediate impact on the world—than to the company that pays them. (And no wonder: nearly 150,000 tech workers worldwide have been laid off this year alone.) Labour market forces may be a factor as well, given that people with tech skills are in demand not just in their own industry but in all industries. Even with some big players shrinking their workforce, highly skilled tech employees still have more job options right now than workers in other industries. Regardless, it’s a clear challenge for tech leaders. Here’s where they should focus their efforts:

  1. Visualise what your ideal workforce will look like. Anticipate potential turnover, and plan the size, shape and skills profile of the employees you’ll need in the future. Headcount is one factor. But you also need to understand the right organisational structure—including how many people you need at each level of seniority, how to best staff teams, and whether you should buy, build or borrow critical skills.
  2. Don’t allow cost reductions to erode the culture. As big global tech players launch cost-reduction programmes—some for the first time in their history—they risk eroding some of the current goodwill with their workforce. Clearly communicate the rationale for any cuts (especially layoffs), and lay out a strong vision for the company’s next chapter—along with the role of all employees in achieving that future vision. In addition, employee pulse surveys can help identify any emerging morale issues amid cost-reduction programs. 
  3. Prioritise R&D and innovation above all else. Technology such as generative AI has the potential to enhance—and, in some cases, replace—some roles and functions. But it doesn’t deliver what tech companies need first and foremost: the ability to generate new ideas. Regardless of a company’s overall reinvention strategy, R&D and innovation should be significant organisational priorities. 

No leader likes turnover. But understanding why some employees leave—and strategically planning for those departures—can help tech companies build a workforce that’s equipped to compete. 

Explore the full findings of PwC’s 2023 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey of 54,000 workers worldwide.

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