Workplace

Top tech candidates are anti-Facebook. It started long before the Facebook Papers.

Potential applicants felt most upset about the company's ability to censor, either believing it went too far or that it didn't do enough to prevent the spread of misinformation.

Facebook Papers: Facebook logo cracking

The company has struggled to battle a negative perception for tech candidates in comparison to its top tech competitors.

Image: Protocol

Nearly a year into the pandemic, Facebook hit a four-month spate with a 600% increase in 1-star reviews on Glassdoor in the United States. Nine former employees who gave one-star reviews were frustrated with the lack of work-life balance and what they called a "toxic culture."

In the same few months, the company saw the lowest proportion of positive sentiment online from potential tech candidates compared to competitive peers like Google, Pinterest, TikTok and Microsoft, and the second-highest proportion of negative sentiment, falling just below Uber. This moment of negative feedback landed just as the pandemic and remote work seemed like they would trap everyone endlessly behind their computers, keeping software engineers tied to their laptops late into the night. That same quarter, Facebook also found that nearly 50% of its software engineering candidates rejected job offers, prompting a memo titled "Why is recruiting so hard right now."

Facebook's summary of its negative former employee reviews and how potential tech candidates perceive the company appeared in a report titled "Q1 2021 Global External Partnerships QBR Summaries," included as part of disclosures made to the SEC and provided to Congress in redacted form by Frances Haugen's legal counsel. A consortium of news organizations, including Protocol, has reviewed the redacted versions received by Congress.

A spokesperson from Meta (the parent company name for Facebook) told Protocol that the report "was a standard update provided to an individual team. Feedback among teams is a core part of our culture and it helps us learn where we're doing well or where we need to improve. We continue to review the most effective way to engage and attract talent."

Tech companies have struggled mightily for talent amid a tightening labor market. While Facebook has reputational issues that contribute to candidate hesitation, a wide range of companies, newly flush with cash from VCs and IPOs, have grown more willing to pay top dollar for candidates. The fight for employees has likely been made worse by the design of tech recruiting systems, which often exclude talented individuals who have less traditional resumes, education or backgrounds. Google's reputation for an especially brutal interview process and the fact that resume-reviewers tend to favor certain companies and schools are just two examples of the multi-faceted problem.

The QBR Summaries report details how Facebook held staff meetings with Glassdoor, Brandwatch, LinkedIn and other partners. According to the memo, Facebook spent $115,313 paying to advertise jobs during the quarter, at an average cost of $7.75 per application. The memo also explains that in the first few months of 2021 Facebook struggled to attract qualified tech candidates in comparison to its competitors (Microsoft, Google, TikTok, Pinterest, Amazon and Airbnb are among the competitors listed in the report's charts). Still, the report shows that Facebook's overall reception from current employees and potential candidates was generally positive when compared to the hiring field as a whole. The company landed at #11 on the Glassdoor Best Places to Work list in 2021, up more than 10 spots from 2020.

"Facebook is pacing behind peers from the 2021 best places to work list in the US and we are behind our goal of increasing our rating 0.1 YoY," an unnamed Facebook employee wrote in the QBR Summaries memo. "The recent increase in 1-star reviews was enough to pull our overall on-site global rating down from 4.4 to 4.3 in March." When the Glassdoor list came out later in 2021, the rating remained unchanged from 2020 at 4.4 stars, indicating that reviews recovered after the first quarter.

While Glassdoor ratings for "comp and benefits" remained extremely high for the company, the ratings for "work-life balance," already low at 3.68 in January 2021 compared to every other category, dropped to 3.32 in March, according to a ratings chart included in the report.

Data from Brandwatch — which scans external media for mentions of Facebook — revealed that Facebook employees are positive about their talented peers and compensation and feel most negatively about work-life balance, management and the regular frequency of performance reviews, according to the memo. Negativity for potential applicants was driven by news about current events, mainly Facebook's handling of misinformation. The trend of employee frustration with work-life balance wasn't isolated to Facebook but instead applied to companies across the board, according to the data.

The report also delves into how candidates and employees feel about competitors: Microsoft had the most positive employee social sentiment, at 51%, while TikTok had the most negative (34%). Facebook had the lowest proportion of positive sentiment (14%) amongst its peers for potential tech candidates (while TikTok had the highest, at 26%) and the second-highest proportion of negative sentiment, falling at 34% just below Uber's 35%. Pinterest had the lowest proportion of negative sentiment, at 17%, and the second-highest proportion of positive sentiment, tied with Microsoft at 25%.

"Facebook candidate conversation fluctuated with current events," the report's author wrote. Potential applicants were far more negative about the company than actual employees, and most felt upset with the company's ability to censor, either believing it went too far or that the company didn't do enough to prevent the spread of misinformation.

Candidates also indicated an interest in understanding how Facebook was making progress on diversity goals, while employees recognized the efforts around diversity and inclusion but also found it to be sometimes disingenuous. The report's authors wrote that Facebook needs to solicit employee feedback to find "what feels unnatural," as well as "strive to create conditions that improve inclusion on a daily basis."

The analysis in the report also showed areas where other competitors are performing especially strongly with their employees. For Microsoft, those areas were work-life balance and mentorship opportunities, while at Amazon workers were most excited about potential for growth at the companies.

This story was updated on Nov. 10, 2021 with a comment from a Meta company spokesperson.

Policy

Steel decided World War II. Chips will decide whatever is next.

“Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology” foreshadows the coming battle between nations over semiconductors.

“Chip War” outlines the nature of the coming battle over semiconductors, showing how the power to produce leading-edge chips fell into the hands of just five companies.

Image: Scribner; Protocol

“World War II was decided by steel and aluminum, and followed shortly thereafter by the Cold War, which was defined by atomic weapons,” Chris Miller, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, writes in the introduction to his latest book. So what’s next? According to Miller, the next era, including the rivalry between the U.S. and China, is all about computing power.

That tech rivalry and the story of how the chip industry got from four to 11.8 billion transistors are all part of Miller’s book, “Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology,” which comes out Oct. 4. “Chip War” outlines the nature of the coming battle over semiconductors, showing how the power to produce leading-edge chips fell into the hands of just five companies: three from the U.S., one from Japan, and one from the Netherlands.

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Hirsh Chitkara

Hirsh Chitkara ( @HirshChitkara) is a reporter at Protocol focused on the intersection of politics, technology and society. Before joining Protocol, he helped write a daily newsletter at Insider that covered all things Big Tech. He's based in New York and can be reached at hchitkara@protocol.com.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

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James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Policy

Musk’s texts reveal what tech’s most powerful people really want

From Jack Dorsey to Joe Rogan, Musk’s texts are chock-full of überpowerful people, bending a knee to Twitter’s once and (still maybe?) future king.

“Maybe Oprah would be interested in joining the Twitter board if my bid succeeds,” one text reads.

Photo illustration: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images; Protocol

Elon Musk’s text inbox is a rarefied space. It’s a place where tech’s wealthiest casually commit to spending billions of dollars with little more than a thumbs-up emoji and trade tips on how to rewrite the rules for how hundreds of millions of people around the world communicate.

Now, Musk’s ongoing legal battle with Twitter is giving the rest of us a fleeting glimpse into that world. The collection of Musk’s private texts that was made public this week is chock-full of tech power brokers. While the messages are meant to reveal something about Musk’s motivations — and they do — they also say a lot about how things get done and deals get made among some of the most powerful people in the world.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Fintech

Circle’s CEO: This is not the time to ‘go crazy’

Jeremy Allaire is leading the stablecoin powerhouse in a time of heightened regulation.

“It’s a complex environment. So every CEO and every board has to be a little bit cautious, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told Protocol at Converge22.

Photo: Circle

Sitting solo on a San Francisco stage, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire asked tennis superstar Serena Williams what it’s like to face “unrelenting skepticism.”

“What do you do when someone says you can’t do this?” Allaire asked the athlete turned VC, who was beaming into Circle’s Converge22 convention by video.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Is Salesforce still a growth company? Investors are skeptical

Salesforce is betting that customer data platform Genie and new Slack features can push the company to $50 billion in revenue by 2026. But investors are skeptical about the company’s ability to deliver.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Salesforce has long been enterprise tech’s golden child. The company said everything customers wanted to hear and did everything investors wanted to see: It produced robust, consistent growth from groundbreaking products combined with an aggressive M&A strategy and a cherished culture, all operating under the helm of a bombastic, but respected, CEO and team of well-coiffed executives.

Dreamforce is the embodiment of that success. Every year, alongside frustrating San Francisco residents, the over-the-top celebration serves as a battle cry to the enterprise software industry, reminding everyone that Marc Benioff’s mighty fiefdom is poised to expand even deeper into your corporate IT stack.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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