The Best Tech Giants To Work For In Silicon Valley

From tech giant to tech giant, levels of stress, satisfaction, and salaries vary widely

Illustration: Diana Quach
Jun 07, 2016 at 4:11 PM ET

It’s easy to forget about the workers who keep Silicon Valley churning. But, a small army of human beings are out there making sure we can run virtual errands, search for directions on our phones, or cyber-stalk our exes on social media with ease.

A new survey from PayScale paints a portrait of what it’s really like to work for some of the biggest brands in tech. The report outlines how company culture, employee attitude, and, of course, the pay line up across places like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple.

While previous studies have found that only 9 percent of millennials want to work at Facebook (compared to 20 percent and 13 percent at Google and Apple, respectively) the numbers show that the social-media platform is probably the best place for the techie whiz kids. Facebook employees rate their levels of job satisfaction higher than anywhere else surveyed, and their levels of job stress significantly lower.

The social networking giant is the first Fortune 500 company to be founded and led by a millennial and is currently staffed by a fairly young crew. The median age of a Facebook employee is 29, with less than five years of background experience, on average. That’s nearly a year less than the average Google or Amazon employee at his or her start time. According to an article by Facebook’s “head of people” (what boring mortals often called Human Resources), the company’s employees are happy because it caters to them: millennials are known for their desire to find fulfillment at work, and so Facebook focuses on learning, fostering initiative, and playing up millennials’ strengths.

Facebook company culture is the mirror image of reports about Amazon, which has a “sometimes punishing” environment—evident in how one ex-employee claimed in high-profile Times story that he saw nearly every co-worker openly cry at his or her desk at some time or another. Work appears to be even more stressful at IBM, Samsung, and Space X, where employees report feeling even more stressed than satisfied. While a high of 92 percent of Space X employees felt a high degree of meaning to their jobs, they also felt the highest degree of job stress.

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The in-progress fix for low morale at Samsung, which has a new headquarters in Silicon Valley, is a cultural overhaul. Earlier this year, executives told Reuters that the company would be working to make sweeping change more typical of a startup culture, fueled by “open communication.” While the demographic there skews slightly older, the influence of the tech industry’s new big shots can be clearly seen in this impending shift. At IBM, where the median employee age is a relatively high 36, a desire for a more egalitarian work environment is in evidence on the company’s Glassdoor page: “Upper management is not easily approachable.” (At Facebook, on the other hand, former employees write of openly and directly asking Mark Zuckerberg questions at the weekly meetings.)

In addition to personal measures of happiness at work, Facebook also leads the tech pack in terms of early career pay. There, junior-level employees make 33 percent more than the median salary of those working at the other companies analyzed by PayScale.

The correlation between the satisfaction of the employees and their median salaries was fairly strong. Unsurprisingly, those working at companies that paid them more for their work tended to feel happier. But satisfaction may not be as simple as taking home a big check—and they’re all pretty big, seeing that tech was nation’s most profitable industry last year.

While other studies have shown that the correlation between work satisfaction and pay are only marginally related, pay rates within a given industry are oven reflective of company performance in general. Facebook and Google, for instance, are at the top of their games, allowing employees to make absolute bank from the time of their first paychecks, and walk away with lucrative stock options if they stick things out. But recent tumult in places like Samsung and the quickly-shrinking IBM have employees receiving lower pay and less satisfaction from their work.