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Google CEO Pichai: We need to up productivity by a fifth

Ideas include restructuring key goals and expunging needless meetings

Google execs are embarking on a company-wide efficiency drive to make the digital advertising and cloud computing business 20 percent more productive.

Taking to the stage at the Code Conference in Los Angeles, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent Alphabet, pointed to economic storms on the horizon.

"The more we try to understand the macroeconomic [situation], we feel very uncertain about it," he said. "The macroeconomic performance is correlated to ad spend, consumer spend and so on."

Pichai and his organization are set to pull internal levers to tweak the business to make it leaner and perhaps operate more smoothly in an effort to hedge against uncertainty.

He admitted Google was moving "slower" after hiring thousands of people during the pandemic. Google's workforce was 118,988 in 2019, swelled to 156,500 in 2021 and is now up to 174,000.

The company, like many others in tech, slowed hiring from July, and last month leaned on staff to generate ideas to be more productive via the Simplicity Sprint initiative. Pichai said at the time he was worried, given the headcount, "our productivity as a whole is not where it needs [to be]."

This followed calendar Q2 results that were 13 percent higher than a year earlier at $69.69 billion, falling slightly short of analysts' consensus estimates and representing something of a slowdown from prior recent quarters.

On stage yesterday at the Code Conference, Pichai said it was essential Google's managers were "prioritizing all the right things to be working on and your employees are really productive that they can actually have impact on the things they're working on – so that's what we are spending our time on."

"Across everything we do, we can be slower to make decisions," Pichai said. "You look at it end-to-end and figure out how to make the company 20 percent more productive."

He added: "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."

According to an Insider report, the CEO last week told staff at the monthly all-hands meeting that he intends to "simplify" the organization.

"I see so many opportunities ahead, and I think we can continue scaling and driving massive impact," Pichai said. "But to do that, we need to simplify the company and manage the complexity as we scale."

Ideas being considered include reducing by a third the list of "objectives and key results" to set goals for staff in 2023 and expunging needless meetings. No doubt merging some products group or tweaking a layer of management to clip bureaucracy could help too.

Pichai said he received 6,000 responses from staff under the Simplicity Sprint initiative and the most "striking" feedback pertained to Google's internal tooling systems and the way it brings on board employees.

The Register has asked Google to comment. ®

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