From happy hours to team size: what does tech talent actually care about?

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Growing a happy, productive tech team (and one that sticks around longer than a year or two) is a balancing act. Because money isn’t always a sole motivator for employees, rising startups and big-name brands are reeling in candidates with value-driven company cultures and incentivizing perks, such as the freedom to work from home, readily available cold (or craft) brew on tap or, in the case of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, unlimited flights.

Along with the perks like flexible scheduling and weekly happy hours you’ll find on career pages, how engineering and product teams operate also plays a big role in attracting and retaining candidates. That said, what kind of environment do tech candidates actually want? Does team size or team bonding outside of the office matter?

We surveyed over 25,000 tech job seekers on Seen to find out, plus gained extra insight into what tech workers want using Indeed.com survey data. While some responses shouldn’t come as a shock, others made us do a double take.


Startups, plus team and company size

Part of attracting great talent and nurturing your team is more than perks and pay—it’s work environment. Your company’s engineering and product team size play a role, too.

To discover how non-perks influence a candidate’s decision when considering a new company, we asked if they’d be willing to get on board with a startup and what their ideal team size looks like.

The results

Startup: While a startup company can’t grow into an established brand at the drop of a hat, knowing where candidates stand gives insight into how many are willing to take a chance. More than half of the candidates surveyed (52.3%) don’t swing heavily one way or the other and say sure, why not. Close behind, 41.4% would absolutely take a chance, leaving a mere 6.3% that answer no way, too much risk.

The tech industry is a magnet for budding entrepreneurs, so if you expected candidates to be more receptive to working for a startup company—despite signing the dotted line for a higher-risk role—you’re spot on.

Whether a company is a startup, however, doesn’t indicate its size. To find out what company size tech workers prefer, we turned to Indeed.com data. As it turns out, the majority (44.1%) prefer mid-sized companies of 101-999 employees. Next in line, 30.1% say they’d rather work for large companies that have 1000+ employees, while 21.9% lean towards smaller companies of 1-100 employees.

The main reasons workers prefer larger companies: Over 40% say it’s because larger companies are more likely to offer job stability, flexibility and work/life balance, higher salary, more career growth opportunities, and better benefits and perks.

Ideal team size: Ideal team size may vary depending on the company and product, but our results prove that the majority of candidates have similar opinions: 34.2% prefer to work in teams of eight, 26.9% agree on teams of five and 14.3% do their best work in teams of 13.

Whole Foods is living proof of how smaller teams can realize amazing results. The company keeps teams smaller (fewer than 10) in light of its continued growth. As a result, it maintains its value-driven culture and empowers employees to own end-to-end delivery.

Perks that bring the team together

These days, many tech companies target their recruiting efforts on a younger crowd—primarily Millennials and Gen Zers—thinking they’ll win them over with team-bonding perks from happy hours with beer on tap to onsite foosball competitions and regular outings.

In the end, how much of an impact do these types of perks have in swaying talent to say yes to your company? We surveyed candidates on a couple of the most popular extras to find out: happy hours and offsite activities.

The results

Happy hours: Whether offsite or on, happy hours can give employees a chance to de-stress and network—or head for the hills. As it turns out, a whopping 67.9% prefer to have happy hours on occasion. A smaller percentage (21%) would rather rarely go to happy hours, and a very small minority (11.1%) would like to have frequent happy hours.

Out-of-office activities: From offsite training and development to outings dedicated strictly to fun, activities outside of the office can help employees refocus and connect. About half (49%) are indifferent, 35.4% would love to engage outside of the office and 15.6% say no thanks.

Just because your company offers perks, doesn’t mean a candidate will say yes to your offer—compensation and traditional benefits, like healthcare and retirement savings plans, are big decision drivers. In fact, according to Indeed.com, pay, financial rewards and benefits are important to 92.9% of tech workers.

Extra perks can play a major role in the overall culture of your company, however. For instance, Atlassian employees not only enjoy a benefit that’s uber-attractive to most any candidate—unlimited vacation—but daily lunches, an office bar and game room complete with ping-pong, shuffleboard and board games. Offering benefits and perks that align with its core values, it both attracts great-fit candidates and helps employees see the office as an extension of life.

Build your dream team to last

Growing a successful engineering team can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Sometimes, all it takes is a closer listen to find out what motivates your employees to do their best work, whether that be the occasional happy hour to break away from screen time or a team structure adjustment.

In the end, company success relies on creating a positive and rewarding employee experience. In doing this, you’ll not only have a greater chance of attracting the right candidates, but engaging them for years to come.

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