Earlier this week, Google CEO Sundar Pichai suggested he wanted to make the search-engine giant 20 percent more efficient—and hinted that could mean a reduction in headcount.
“Across everything we do, we can be slower to make decisions,” he told the audience at the Code Conference in Los Angeles, according to CNBC. “You look at it end-to-end and figure out how to make the company 20 percent more productive.”
What kinds of actions will result in that kind of productivity boost? “Sometimes there are areas to make progress [where] you have three people making decisions, understanding that and bringing it down to two or one improves efficiency by 20 percent,” he added.
Like many CEOs in tech, Pichai always has an eye on the economy. Widespread fear of a recession has dampened the ad and consumer spending that helps power Google’s bottom line. In addition to initiating an extended hiring freeze, Pichai has launched a “simplicity sprint” designed to improve the company’s efficiency and focus. “It’s clear we are facing a challenging macro environment with more uncertainty ahead,” he reportedly told employees in early August. “There are real concerns that our productivity as a whole is not where it needs to be for the head count we have.”
Pichai has also asked Google employees to offer up ideas for better product development, team workflow, product quality, and other critical areas. That’s in addition to a generalized focus on morale, centered on a new internal performance review system that will give employees a better shot at advancement and career development. (According to The Information, 47 percent of Google employees disliked the old performance review system, which featured two evaluations per year.)
Will Pichai actually turn to layoffs? That remains to be seen. Some tech companies that depend on ad revenue have recently cut back staff, most notably Snap, which plans on laying off 20 percent of its workforce. However, Pichai is also keenly aware of the impact of layoffs on morale.