Google CEO Calls for ‘Simplicity Sprint’ Workers Fear Layoffs


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Google CEO Sundar Pichai is reportedly calling on his staff to implement a “Simplicity Sprint” initiative meant to crowdsource employee ideas around product development, drive up efficiency and, “get better results faster.” The proposal comes on the heels of a hiring freeze and a series of worrying emails that has some Googlers concerned over the potential for layoffs.

The so-called Simplicity Sprint, first reported on by CNBC, reportedly came up during a company all-hands meeting last week. Pichai reportedly told employees they could share ideas for the sprint up until August 15 through an internal survey. The survey reportedly includes questions that probe areas where the company could potentially make cuts, according to a copy viewed by CNBC.

Pichai reportedly made it clear that efficiency at the company isn’t where executives want it, particularly in light of disappointing Q2 results. Google’s overall revenue was slightly below analysts’ predictions while revenue growth slowed to 13%, down from 62% during the same period the previous year.

“I wanted to give some additional context following our earnings results, and ask for your help as well,” Pichai reportedly told staff. “It’s clear we are facing a challenging macro environment with more uncertainty ahead.”

On the question of layoffs, Google’s Chief People Officer, Fiona Cicconi, said the company is still hiring for some critical roles and has no current layoff plans, but did not entirely rule out layoffs down the line.

“We’re asking teams to be more focused and efficient and we’re working out what that means as a company as well,” Cicconi reportedly said. “Even though we can’t be sure of the economy in the future, we’re not currently looking to reduce Google’s overall workforce.”

Google did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Last week’s meeting marks the latest in a series of alarming, at times cryptic communications between Google executives and staff alluding to potential tougher times ahead. Early last month, Pichai reportedly sent an email to staff urging employees to be “more entrepreneurial,” and said the company would shift its focus to hiring for “critical roles” moving forward. Just weeks later, Google reportedly sent a follow up email where it announced the company would implement a two week hiring freeze. That freeze came after the company reportedly brought on around 10,000 new workers in Q2.

“We’ll use this time to review our headcount needs and align on a new set of prioritized Staffing Requests for the next three months,” Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan reportedly said in the email obtained by The Information.

Google’s warning to its staff reflects a broader sense of unease across the tech industry. A recent Crunchbass analysis found the tech industry has lost more than 30,000 jobs this year as of late July. Those have come from nearly every corner of the sector, from electric vehicles giants like Tesla to cryptocurrency heavyweight Coinbase.

There are signs that pressure could be coming for the Big Tech giants as well. Last month, a senior Meta executive advised managers to “move to exit,” poor-performing employees. A month prior to that, CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly considered slashing the hiring of its engineers by 30% for the remainder of the year, according to a leaked Q&A. Zuckerberg reiterated that glum sentiment during an all hands meeting last week where he reportedly said the company had hired too aggressively during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

While the recent tech industry downturns mark the clearest explanation for Google’s recent cautionary language, Pichai has faced criticism from some who’ve said his leadership at the company is linked to a decline in performance. 15 current and former Google executives speaking to the New York Times last year blamed Pichai for not moving quickly enough on business decisions and creating an environment paralyzed by bureaucracy. Some former Google executives, like Noam Bardin, accused Pichai of lacking the appetite for risk so symbolic of tech industry executives.

“The innovation challenges,” Bardin wrote in a blog post “will only get worse as the risk tolerance will go down.”



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