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Google asks workers for ideas on being 'more focused and efficient' in internal survey

Put your answers on how to 'eliminate waste and stay entrepreneurial' in Sprint box by mid-August

Google is asking its 174,000 workers for areas to improve efficiency and ways to up productivity on the back of last week’s less glitzy financial results and an uncertain global economy.

The call to arms was discussed at a regular town hall meeting on 27 July in which staff raised worries about layoffs, and Sundar Pichai, CEO at Google parent Alphabet asked for recommendations, according to sources spoken to by CNBC and documentation from the event.

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

Alphabet reported calendar Q2 financials the day before – on July 26 – that showed a 13 percent rise in revenues to $69.86 billion, considerably slower than the 62 percent expansion logged in the prior financial year when the pandemic was still in full swing.

“There are real concerns that our productivity as a whole is not where it needs to be for the head count we have,” Pichai told workers at the all-hands meeting.

The bossman further urged workers to “create a culture that is more mission-focused, more focused on our products, more customer focused. We should think about how we can minimize distractions and really raise the bar on both product excellence and productivity.”

Under the title Simplicity Sprint, the company wants Googlers to post their ideas in an internal survey that has a deadline of the middle of this month.

Questions include, as per CNBC: “What would help you work with greater clarity and efficiency to serve our users and customers? Where should we remove speed bumps to get to better results faster? How do we eliminate waste and stay entrepreneurial and focused as we grow?”

The tone of the talk by Pichai spooked some Google employees, with one asking if layoffs are on the horizon. The company execs didn’t provide a firm no.

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

“I really get that 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,” she added.

In mid-July it emerged that Google was “slowing the pace of hiring for the rest of the year, while still supporting our most important opportunities.” It would still focus on “engineering, technical and other critical roles.”

All this comes at a time when tech giants are watching with interest any moves that customers make as clouds gather over the economy.

Google’s latest results were in line with Wall Street expectations but growth rates were most modest in digital advertising – Google’s main business – and the Cloud division reported wider losses than a year ago.

Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said the company is “investing to support the long-term growth and given the upside that we see … looking at the path to profitability.”

No exec was willing to say when that day might come. Perhaps employees can help. ®

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