New employer satisfaction data hints at techlash’s impact and Microsoft’s exception

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Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

It’s been a tough year for tech, and the barrage of negative headlines dogging the industry may be hitting companies in one of their most sensitive spots: recruiting.

Glassdoor’s new Best Places to Work report revealed several of America’s largest technology companies are slipping in their employees’ eyes.

Apple, Facebook, and Google have all declined in their rankings after a year of being pummeled by lawmakers and activists over issues like abusing their dominance, spreading disinformation, and misusing consumer data.

The correlation, first noted by Axios, is likely worrying for companies that have to compete for talent in a tight labor market with a shortage of workers trained in high-tech skills.

Microsoft is the exception. The Redmond, Wash., software giant is not typically wrapped into the controversy plaguing its tech industry peers — and the Glassdoor report reflects that. Microsoft ranked No. 21, up from 34 last year. But LinkedIn, the social networking site Microsoft acquired in 2016, fell from No. 6 in 2018 to No. 12 this year.

The Seattle-area’s other tech titan, Amazon, notably didn’t make the list. The company is playing defense on several fronts, from employee activists to Republicans and Democrats in Washington D.C. Amazon was criticized more than any other tech company by Democrats running for president during the primary debates.

Amazon is in a slightly different league than its tech industry peers, given the thousands of warehouse workers the company employs. The Seattle tech titan has never made Glassdoor’s 2018 list of top workplaces.

Amazon does consistently score top marks for its corporate reputation, which reflects the company’s focus on customers. Amazon was also rated the “best-managed company” in the U.S. by the Wall Street Journal.

Other Seattle-area companies to make the list include Costco, Slalom, T-Mobile, and eXp Realty. Expedia, meanwhile, dropped off the list entirely.

Glassdoor used employee reviews between October 2018-2019 and a proprietary algorithm to determine the best workplaces.

Based on that formula, Facebook dropped from No. 7 in 2018 to No. 23 this year, Apple slid from No. 71 to No. 84, and Google fell from No. 8 to No. 11.

Google has been a particular target of a new band of employee activists who are pressuring their employers to take positions on political issues. Last summer, Google decided not to renew a contract for the Pentagon’s Project Maven after 4,000 employees protested their work being used for lethal purposes.

Protestors march from Amazon’s campus to Seattle City Hall as part of the Global Climate Strike. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

It wasn’t an isolated incident. Thousands of employees at Amazon, Google, and other tech companies walked out in September to demand their employers take bolder action to address the climate crisis. Employees at a range of tech companies — including Microsoft, Chef, and Tableau — have also taken action to protest their employers’ contracts with immigration officials and other issues.

Despite that shifting tide, Apple, Google, and Bain & Company are the only three employers that have consistently made the list of top workplaces every year since Glassdoor launched it 12 years ago.

Tech is well represented on this year’s list, despite its difficult year. SurveyMonkey, Dell, and Slack landed on the list for the first time and DocuSign took third place. Salesforce, Adobe, SAP, NVIDIA, and other tech companies also made the top 100.

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