Germany appears to be a land of opportunity when it comes to technology jobs that offer generous salaries and career growth. In particular, Berlin is the recipient of the lion’s share of Germany’s national start-up investment according to government figures with Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart not far behind. What does this mean for tech talent? Well, there are plenty of exciting companies looking for this skillset, providing substantive and fulfilling job opportunities.  

Nevertheless, while Germany has consistently had a reputation for being a strong player in tech, it does not top the list in Europe. Ranking 10th in the Global Innovation Index in 2021, behind survey participants Sweden, UK, and the Netherlands, and 14th in Insead’s 2022 Global Talent Competitiveness Index, behind survey participants like Sweden, the Netherlands, UK, and Ireland indicates a challenge for German employers: How can they maintain a competitive edge against their higher-ranking neighbors? 

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Meanwhile the battle for tech talent continues apace, and as always, it is particularly fierce when it comes to the young generation who hold the key to the future success of the tech industry. To better understand how 20 to 30-year-olds (Gen Z and Young Millennial employees) in Europe experience the world of work, HiBob partnered with investors Eight Roads and surveyed 2,005 20-30-year-olds across Europe during July-August 2022 to learn more about their motivations, detractors, and aspirations.  It also looked at what they want from their jobs and roles, and their expectations for the future. Additionally, the survey looked at the impact of the economic downturn and uncertainty caused by inflation, global supply chain problems, the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Germany was one of the participating countries of the study which included respondents from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, and Spain. These were some of the key takeaways regarding the young generation in tech (YGIT) in Germany, where thousands of young tech workers are employed by fintech, software, and internet companies.

1. Most young German workers don’t expect to be laid off in this downturn

Job security is a primary concern for young European workers in tech, many of whom are now experiencing an economic downturn for the first time in their lives. However, the current downturn seems to be having less of an impact on YGIT in Germany than on the average European YGIT. Only 17% of young Germans in tech expect to be laid off, compared to the European average of 27%.  39% of young Germans compared to an average of 32% in Europe feel that their position is secure.

Since German YGIT appear less concerned about being laid off, the economic downturn seems to feature less prominently in their career plans than it does for their European peers. Almost half of young German workers in tech say that the downturn has had no impact on their plans—49% compared to the European average of 46%. Similarly, fewer say that it has completely changed their plans—14% compared to the European average of 18%. 

If that does not support the idea that German YGIT seem less concerned about the current economic uncertainty and its effect on job prospects, a staggering 48% of young German workers say they expect to stay at their current job for the foreseeable future—19% more than the European average of 29%. In addition, only 5% are currently looking for a new role, compared to the European average of 11%. These findings consistently point to the fact that Germans feel much more secure about their employment status than other young Europeans in tech and are experiencing the current downturn in an altogether different way.

2. The experience of working in tech is better in Germany

That leads to the question of why Germans are experiencing the current downturn so differently.  One reason may be that their experience of working in tech seems to be much more positive than that of their peers in other European countries. 77% say that their work  experience meets or exceeds their expectations, compared to the European average of 70%, Only 23% say that it is below their expectations, compared to 30% of their European peers. This positive work experience may lie behind their ability to  weather periods of uncertainty like the current one with more ease, and is definitely something that German employers should strive to maintain. 

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3. Flexible work models are a source of tension–but highly valued

Young German workers in tech clearly value flexibility. When asked what motivated them to join their current company, YGIT in Germany rated a flexible working model seven percentage points higher than in Europe as a whole—32% compared to the European average of 25%.

The survey showed that German employers also understand that flexibility is a priority for their employees and are in sync with their preferences and expectations. 93% received an offer that comprised some form of flexible work model, compared to the European average of 80%.

However, similar to their counterparts in other countries, hybrid work models aren’t straightforward for young German workers in tech. 36% feel that they don’t have enough time in the office and have less time to build relationships with their team, slightly higher than the European average of 32%. 

Despite the high value German YGITs place on flexibility, they aren’t immune to the negative impact it can have on their experience at work and their ability to foster work relationships and a sense of belonging. Tech companies in Germany seem to have done an excellent job creating flexible work models—now it’s time to enhance them with more opportunities for communication and interaction that will allow young workers to build relationships and feel more engaged in the workplace.

4. The significance of company success, mission, and potential for German YGIT

Young German workers seem to be more interested in the potential of their company than their European counterparts, both in terms of the company’s mission and impact, and the financial potential of an “exit” (sale)  or IPO. When asked what motivated them to join their current company and what might encourage them to stay, company potential played a much more significant role for young Germans than for the average YGIT European. 

These results point to the fact that young German workers in tech are more focused on the future than their peers in other places in Europe, something that employers can leverage in their employer brand, messaging, and compensation packages

5. Company advocacy is important—and most German YGIT are on board

German workers are more willing to recommend their company than the European average—35% say they will recommend it compared to the European average of 30%. Only 24% are not willing to recommend their company, compared to the European average of 30%.

They are also impacted by recommendations from friends—22% of the German respondents said that a friend approaching them might entice them to join another company which was slightly higher than the European average and points to the fact that, like in other countries, German YGIT trust their friends to help them choose companies to join. 

Again, German employers seem to be aware of these trends and are encouraging employees to be active advocates by offering referral bonuses. 31% of German YGITs receive a referral bonus for joiners they bring in, compared to the European average of 27%. 

7. Additional German YGIT highlights from our study

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One thing that may be having a significant impact on the way young tech workers in Germany perceive work is their personal and parental status. Although the German sample tended to be slightly younger and more male than the overall sample, a significantly higher percentage of the German respondents are parents or in cohabiting relationships. 54% of YGIT in Germany are married or living with a partner compared to 44% of their counterparts elsewhere in Europe, and 49% are parents compared to the European average of 37%. Their personal and parental status may be impacting their needs and preferences, so it’s important for German employers to note that statistic. 

8. Learning, development and managing a YGIT career path

 YGITs in Germany tend to be more focused on the future than YGITs in other places in Europe. The future of their company and the future of their career are intertwined. That has an impact on the value they place on the potential of their companies, and it also impacts how they manage their own careers. For instance, YGITs in Germany focus more on developing their skills than their European counterparts. When asked what might entice them to join another company, 33% selected a company that provides more concrete support for their career development, compared to the European average of 28%. Only 23% of respondents in Germany said that a promotion or better title would entice them to join another company. This may be partly due to an understanding that concrete support in career development may pay off more in the long term than a one-time promotion. 

When asked what they dislike about their current companies, 28% chose the lack of a clear career path, compared to 24% in other places in Europe, again pointing towards a future-focused perspective.

Almost a third (32%) of German survey respondents stated that their current company contributes financially to their education, 28% participate in external training organized by their company, and 28% have a clear career path mapped out by their company, all numbers that are significantly higher than the European average. Like with flexible work models, German employers seem to be responding to these employee preferences in the workplace.

Summary and conclusions

German YGIT are more satisfied with their experience in the workplace than their European counterparts and want to stay with their current companies. It seems that the current economic situation isn’t having the same impact on them as it is on their peers in other European countries. German YGIT are good company advocates and are invested in their company’s potential. Their future-focused approach drives them to prioritize career development and learning, something that employers can leverage in both branding and benefits. Last but not least, flexible work models are critical to young German workers in tech, but employers need to do more to meet their needs for interaction and opportunities to build relationships with their colleagues.