Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks onstage during the Google I/O annual developer conference in Mountain View, California on May 8, 2018.
Stephen Lam | Reuters
Google is launching a new effort called “Simplicity Sprint” in an effort to improve efficiency and improve employee focus during an uncertain economic environment.
The Alphabet company had its usual general work last Wednesday, and the tone was somewhat urgent as employees raised concerns about the layoffs and CEO Sundar Pichai asked employees for their input, according to attendees and related internal documentation. seen by CNBC. Google’s productivity as a company is not where it should be even with the number of employees it has, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees at the meeting.
“I wanted to provide some additional context after our earnings results and also ask for your help,” Pichai opened, referring to the company’s second-quarter earnings report on Tuesday. “It is clear that we are facing a challenging macro environment with more uncertainty ahead.”
He added: “There are real concerns that our overall productivity is not where it needs to be for the number of employees we have.” He asked employees to help “create a culture that’s more mission-focused, more product-focused, more customer-focused. We should be thinking about how we can minimize distractions and really raise the bar on both product excellence as in productivity.
It comes after the company reported its second straight quarter of weaker-than-expected earnings and revenue on Tuesday. Revenue growth slowed to 13% in the quarter from 62% a year earlier, when the company was benefiting from the post-pandemic reopening and consumer spending was on the rise. Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said she expected some of the challenges to continue in the near term, but the company provides no formal guidance.
It also comes after Pichai recently announced he would slow down hiring and investment until 2023, asking employees to work “more urgently” and “hungerer” than shown “on the sunniest days.”
‘Sprint for simplicity’
“I would love all your help,” Pichai said at Wednesday’s general meeting, speaking to his more than 170,000 full-time employees.
To that end, Pichai introduced a “Simplicity Sprint” initiative to crowdsource ideas for faster product development. “Sprint” is a term often used in software development and technology startups to denote short, focused spurts toward a common goal.
Pichai said the company is giving employees the floor to share their ideas through Aug. 15 through an internal survey asking if management can contact them with follow-up questions.
It is an attempt for the company to “get better results faster,” Pichai said during the meeting. The survey, seen by CNBC, shows that it can also be used to cut back in certain areas.
Survey questions include “What would help you work more clearly and efficiently to serve our users and customers? Where should we remove speed bumps to get better results faster? How do we eliminate waste and stay entrepreneurial and focused as we grow?
The request also comes as the company tries to ease tensions between employees and executives after an annual “Googlegeist” survey showed employees gave the company particularly low ratings on pay, promotions and execution.
Highlighting a 7% drop in views on Google’s execution, executive Prabhakar Raghavan at the time wrote “that means we need to pay more attention to cutting red tape.” cartography and other areas.
In May, the company announced that it would review its performance appraisal process, resulting in increased pay, while also hoping to cut red tape around compensation and raises.
At Wednesday’s general meeting, executives addressed employee concerns about possible layoffs. One of the highest rated questions was “In light of Sundar’s statement that sharpening Google’s focus ‘means consolidating where investments overlap and streamlining processes,’ should we expect layoffs?”
Pichai turned the question over to Google’s chief people officer, Fiona Cicconi.
While Cicconi said the company is still hiring and has no plans for layoffs at this time, he didn’t rule it out.
“We are asking teams to be more focused and efficient and we are also working on what that means as a company. While we can’t be sure of the economics going forward, we’re not currently looking to reduce Google’s overall workforce.”
He also said, “I really understand there is some anxiety around this based on what we’re hearing from other companies and what they’re doing and as Sundar mentioned, we’re still hiring for critical roles,” Cicconi said. He asked employees to remember that it remains the biggest hiring year in the company’s history.
In the second quarter, Alphabet said its headcount rose 21% to 174,014 full-time employees from 144,056 a year earlier. However, the company said last month it will slow hiring and investments until 2023, with CEO Sundar Pichai telling employees in a memo that “we are not immune to economic setbacks.”
Pichai noted the broader economic headwinds several times. “If you look at what’s going on externally, I’m sure you’re all reading the news, people in companies using Google products are facing their own challenges right now.”