People, Power and Technology: The Tech Workers’ View is the first in-depth research into the attitudes of the people who design and build digital technologies in the UK. It shows that workers are calling for an end to the era of moving fast and breaking things.
Significant numbers of highly skilled people are voting with their feet and leaving jobs they feel could have negative consequences for people and society. This is heightening the UK’s tech talent crisis and running up employers’ recruitment and retention bills. Organisations and teams that can understand and meet their teams’ demands to work responsibly will have a new competitive advantage.
While Silicon Valley CEOs have tried to reverse the “techlash” by showing their responsible credentials in the media, this research shows that workers:
- need guidance and skills to help navigate new dilemmas
- have an appetite for more responsible leadership
- want clear government regulation so they can innovate with awareness
Every technology worker that leaves a company does so at a cost of £30,000.* The cost of not addressing workers’ concerns is bad for business — especially when the market for skilled workers is so competitive.
Our research shows that tech workers believe in the power of their products to drive positive change — but they cannot achieve this without ways to raise their concerns, draw on expertise, and understand the possible outcomes of their work. Counter to the well-worn narrative that regulation and guidance kill innovation, this research shows they are now essential ingredients for talent management, retention and motivation.
It is time for the tech industry to move beyond gestures towards ethical behaviour — rather than drafting more voluntary codes and recruiting more advisory boards, it is time to double down on responsible practice. Workers — particularly those in the field of AI — want practical guidelines so they can innovate with confidence.
*Oxford Economics (2014) ‘The Cost of Brain Drain’. http://resources.unum.co.uk/downloads/cost-brain-drain-report.pdf