The tech industry is frequently lauded as the dream place to work for many young workers. Tech darlings like Google, Apple and Meta have been top employers of choice for young Aussies wanting to work with highly motivated, ambitious teams and looking to make their mark in the tech space.

The industry has seen immense growth in Australia in the last few years. Tech is currently the seventh biggest employing sector, employing 861,000 people — over half (52%) of these workers are under 40 and a significant proportion are young employees in their 20s. 

With the recent tech layoffs impacting thousands of employees worldwide, tech companies appear to be losing their shine and although many young employees fear they will be cut next, there is something different about this financial downturn that is creating a never before seen dynamic in the labour market. Unlike past instances of economic uncertainty,  the pressures of the downturn this time around do not appear to be universally affecting companies in the same way.  While many are looking at hiring freezes or lay-offs, there are still plenty of live vacancies fuelled by the ongoing war on talent.  So if it’s not about the availability of roles and jobs, what then is turning young people in tech off?

The biggest concerns 

A recent survey conducted by HiBob to understand the current sentiments and challenges faced by employees working in tech between the age of 20 to 30 found that one in five young Aussies working in tech expects to be laid off or fired during the economic downturn.

Many of these young employees’ early careers have been defined by COVID-19 as companies scrambled to adopt new ways of working and processes, adjust to remote work and limited in-person interaction with teammates and colleagues. Employees were thrown into the deep end and forced to quickly adapt as they navigated through a very different job market and world of work.

Young employees have once again been put to the test in light of the economic downturn and impending recession.  Half (49%) of young Aussies are unsure of their current job security and the road ahead appears to be full of uncertainty. Due to the downturn, nearly half (44%) have been forced to change their career plans, job search and employment considerations, with 22% completely changing their career plans.

Despite having to overcome significant hurdles in the early stages of their career, young tech employees have high expectations and are invested in their career development. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey, 45% of young Australians feel anxious or stressed either all or most of the time, citing longer-term financial security and job prospects as the most common causes. 

HiBob’s research reflects these concerns, finding that only one in three (33%) young tech workers have a clear career path mapped out for them by their company, and less than a quarter (24%) have access to a formal mentoring program. Alarmingly, one in five employees says their experience at work does not meet their expectations.

What does this mean for employers? 

Employers must pay extra attention to ensuring employees are engaged and morale is high. This will give businesses the best chance of retaining and developing high performers who will ultimately be fundamental to long-term success.

Businesses can set employees up for success right from the beginning by creating tailored career roadmaps and conducting regular performance reviews that outline clear and attainable goals. Performance review cycles not only serve as a way for employees to receive structured feedback but also give employees clarity on what they need to work towards, ensuring managers and employees are aligned on expectations. 

Establishing regular 1-on-1s is imperative and a key component of a successful, ongoing feedback model. By having regular touchpoints, employees are able to check in on their goals, celebrate milestones and ensure any concerns are addressed immediately.

On top of that, HiBob’s research further emphasises the importance of providing young employees with career opportunities, where only 36% of young tech employees were given the opportunity to participate and learn new skills. To reinforce the commitment to employee career development and help employees stay motivated, employers should seek out and provide employees with both internal and external upskilling programs. This not only helps to future-proof business but ensures employees will feel more valued and experience a greater sense of belonging.

Looking ahead

Today’s young tech workforce is worried about job security and their work experience has been hindered by a lack of career development and learning opportunities. They’ve never been more conflicted, and as a result, are reconsidering their career path to protect themselves from layoffs.

There is now an urgent need for businesses to open and widen the lines of communication. People managers are key to that communication and businesses should invest in their managers to ensure they feel prepared and capable to support and reassure young tech workers through the difficult situation they find themselves in.

Damien Andreasen is head of region for Australia & New Zealand at HiBob.