Google Workers Fret After Ominous Words From CEO

Pichai warns that productivity is lacking, company isn't 'immune to economic headwinds'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2022 6:38 AM CDT
Google CEO Warns Workers of 'Real Concerns' on Productivity
In this Oct. 3, 2019, file photo, Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a visit to El Centro College in Dallas.   (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

It's been a worrisome few weeks for Google, as profits dipped for the second quarter in a row and hiring was temporarily paused. Now, CEO Sundar Pichai has put out an alert to employees, seeking ideas to boost efficiency and up productivity and warning of an economy that doesn't look to be improving anytime soon. CNBC reports that this call to action came Wednesday during the Alphabet company's "all-hands" meeting of 170,000-plus full-time workers, where Pichai announced "Simplicity Sprint," an initiative to "remove speed bumps," "eliminate waste," and develop products at a quicker pace, per an internal survey seen by the news outlet.

"It's clear we are facing a challenging macro environment with more uncertainty ahead," Pichai told employees, asking them to share their ideas with management via the survey by Aug. 15. "There are real concerns that our productivity as a whole is not where it needs to be for the headcount we have." The Verge notes that Pichai's words came on the tail of a memo last month warning that Google isn't "immune to economic headwinds," as well as an additional memo announcing a two-week hiring freeze "to review our headcount needs." That latter comment dovetailed with Pichai's remarks on Wednesday, when he mentioned "consolidating where investments overlap and streamlining processes"—what some took to be a hint that layoffs may be coming down the pike.

Fiona Cicconi, Google's personnel chief, fielded that concern, noting there weren't plans at the moment to cull the workforce—in fact, she said hiring was still happening for "critical roles," even though the hiring pace would slow down overall into 2023—but she also didn't guarantee layoffs wouldn't happen. "We're asking teams to be more focused and efficient and we're working out what that means as a company as well," she said, per CNBC. Fortune notes that Google isn't the only tech firm making such moves: Microsoft recently said it would be slashing some jobs, while Facebook parent Meta has also pulled back on hiring. (Read more Sundar Pichai stories.)

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