Text reads "2022 Big tech and the big empathy gap" surrounded by logos of Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, AirBnb, Square, Zoom, and Netflix
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Big tech and the big empathy gap

There have been some significant changes in our workplaces the past two years. It’s affected how we work, where we work, and for many, what we expect of the people we work with and for. It’s driven one of the most labor-empowered periods in recent history, and people are making their feelings known with their feet. If companies are not meeting the needs of the people that work for them, those people are leaving, sometimes in record numbers.

In tech, we’ve seen this even more acutely. There are countless examples of when companies don’t live up to the values their employees hold, the employees use their voices to speak up, or leave the company and share their reasons publicly.

People are increasingly scanning companies for their values—how companies are showing up right now matters more than ever. We looked at the language patterns of top tech companies to determine how they have shifted and adapted in the past three years as employee needs have changed. The good news: some companies did strike a more empathetic tone in 2020. The bad news: There are signs these language changes were temporary. 

We’re calling this difference between the empathetic values that job seekers are looking for and the organizational culture that is actually coming through in their materials the empathy gap. And, it’s costing big tech talent in this market.

The language of big tech

Language is always changing, and we expected to find some changes in how tech companies have been positioning themselves given all the changes to our workplaces. We decided to take a look at the language patterns in 10,000 public job posts from prominent tech companies over the past three years. Here is what we found:

Empathy gap data 2

In this analysis we looked at the rate of aggressive phrases world-class, fast-paced, aggressive, and discipline and compared them to the rate of empathetic phrases flexible, empathy, and belonging. We looked at the differences in the rate of occurrences per 1,000 job posts between the two phrase groups.

The results were telling: In 2020, every major tech company we looked at started to sound more empathetic. However, not all companies continued to strike an empathetic tone. There is a noticeable decrease in aggressive language between 2019 and 2020, but in 2021, it is on the rise again for some—almost back to levels before the pandemic and social justice movements of 2020.

Looking at the company-specific data, companies like Amazon and Facebook have shifted sharply in 2021 back to their more aggressive positioning. Perhaps not surprisingly, these companies were also among the most aggressive prior to the pandemic. The result? An empathy gap between the needs of today’s job seekers and the culture these workplaces are offering.

Interestingly, in a cohort of newer, more nimble companies, we don’t see this same shift back to aggressive language. Instead, companies like Zoom, Square, and AirBnb, have continued to use more empathetic language than aggressive language even in 2021. These companies are better positioned to meet the moment in the market by promoting empathetic values.

If you look at the aggregate data across these two sets of companies—big established tech and more nimble, innovative tech—these patterns are even more exaggerated.

Top Tech Phrases 2021.001

The stakes have never been higher

In the past decade, professionals have increasingly prioritized personal values in deciding where to work, whether it’s a commitment to sustainability, philanthropy or social impact. And with every passing year, job seekers and employees are setting a higher bar; they want their employers to be equally committed to changing themselves.

At Textio, we’ve always believed that the values that a company espouses impacts who can see themselves working at that company. But, you don’t need to take it from us—there is plenty of data that reflects this. In 2021, we’re seeing what is being called the Great Resignation where employees are willingly leaving their jobs that aren’t giving them the environment they want. Even if your company hasn’t been affected, the signs are that it soon will be:

  • More than half of employees are leaving their jobs because they are looking for work more aligned with their personal values
  • More than half the global workforce says they will not accept a job offer from a company that doesn’t match their beliefs in diversity and inclusion
  • 3/5 of workers want a flexible work environment, even more than health insurance and time off

As we approach 2022, companies that do not pay attention to what values they are expressing risk alienating employees and job seekers.

Job seekers.002

The cost of the empathy gap

For a company to compete in this tough talent market, it has to meet the needs of the people that work there or are considering working there. While Amazon and Facebook may be getting back to “business as usual,”, many workers have made a permanent shift in their expectations of employers. People are leaving their jobs and searching for work that aligns with their values, excluding companies that don’t match their own beliefs on diversity and inclusion, and looking for a flexible work environment that fit their lifestyle.

It has never been more important to hold a mirror to your company and truly measure how you sound in the marketplace. The truth is, job seekers and your employees are already doing this. They are sorting through your materials, scanning for hints of what you value. If you aren’t actively measuring and paying attention to the language you’re putting out there, you have no way of knowing what values are coming through.

Textio is able to identify and measure those patters in your language. Only by measuring your language can you ensure you’re showing up in the way that you intend. 

If companies aren’t aligned with what people are expecting out of their workplaces, it will cost them talent—and for big tech, there are already indicators of who is likely to win.

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