sourcegraph
February 9, 2023

Google employees in Switzerland wrote to the company’s vice president of human resources this month expressing their concerns that the new-hire evaluation system could be used to cut jobs.

“The number and dissemination of reports we have received suggests that at least some managers have been intensely pressured to engage in a process that could result in employees receiving negative ratings and potentially losing their jobs,” five workers and employee representatives wrote in the letter. Applying Quotas in 2019,” obtained by The New York Times.

The letter suggests that some Google employees are increasingly interpreting recent management decisions as a warning that the company may be planning broader layoffs. From the looming closure of a small office and the cancellation of a content moderation project to efforts to ease the budget during its 2023 planning meeting, the Silicon Valley giant has become a source of anxiety, according to interviews with 14 current and former employees. fuse. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

In some cases, Google employees have reacted to an initiative the company launched in July to streamline operations, cut red tape and make themselves more productive. In other cases, they had budget conversations and some teams were unable to hire more people next year, the people said. Workers are also uncomfortable with decisions made months ago that have taken on new meaning for some, they said.

The fears have intensified as Google’s tech industry peers issued fire notices amid a deteriorating global economy. Last month, Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, cut 11,000 jobs, or about 13% of its workforce. Amazon also began laying off about 10,000 business and technology workers, or about 3% of its corporate workforce.

Even Google, which is expected to rake in tens of billions of dollars in profits this year, has had to live with the slowdown. In October, Google parent Alphabet reported a 27% year-on-year drop in third-quarter profit to $13.9 billion as the digital advertising market slumped.

Google did not comment on employees’ anxieties, as requested by The Times. Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in October that the company would “focus on a clear set of product and business priorities.” He also said it would slow hiring and “moderate” the growth in its spending.

Unlike other big tech companies, Google has so far refrained from mass layoffs. Still, investors have pushed the company to more aggressively “defend” its massive profits, said Evercore ISI analyst Mark Mahaney.

“One of the most obvious ways is to cut costs and reduce headcount,” he said. He added that it was “a bit odd” that Google’s parent company hired 30,000 people over the past three quarters, given economic trends. Alphabet had 186,779 employees at the end of September.

In recent months, Google seems to be paying more attention to costs. In July, it launched a plan to streamline operations. Soon after, it canceled projects including the Pixelbook laptop and the video game streaming platform Stadia.It also reduces the District 120an internal product incubator.

In a recent meeting, a Google human resources representative told an employee that the company would reconsider the possibility of larger layoffs in the new year, according to a recording obtained by The New York Times. Chai’s decision.

Google has told other employees that it will prioritize cutting real estate spending, travel expenses and perks before laying off workers, a person familiar with the matter said. The person requested anonymity because the conversation is private. The company plans to close a small office in Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, next month.

Project cancellations and reorganizations have sparked tension. Google-owned YouTube shut down a project in its Farmington Hills office in September that employed nearly 80 people, firing some who did not find new positions at the company, four people familiar with the matter said. YouTube employs them as contractors to manage content on the video platform. Google said 14 employees lost their jobs.


Things we consider before using anonymous sources. Does the source know this information? What motives do they tell us? Have they proven reliable in the past? Can we corroborate this information? Even after addressing these concerns, The Times used anonymous sources as a last resort. Reporters and at least one editor knew the identities of the sources.

With these types of reorganizations, Google says it doesn’t intend to reduce its overall workforce size, but some teams may lose staff as the company reassesses its priorities.

Some teams that have been growing in the past will not be able to hire more staff next year, four people familiar with the matter said. Planning for 2023 is also more demanding, such as asking managers to draw up plans on how to handle 10 different budget scenarios, rather than three or four, one person said. In planning discussions, leaders pressured managers to justify their spending, asking if there were workarounds or team restructurings that could save money, two people familiar with the matter said.

One of the biggest concerns for some employees is whether Google could use its new performance review system to accelerate layoffs. In May, the company installed a new system called Googler Reviews and Development.

Under the system, managers want the bottom 2 percent of employees to be classified as “insufficient influence,” according to two people familiar with the matter. The other 4% should be judged to provide “moderate impact”.

There is growing concern that the bottom 6%, or about 11,000 people, may be fired targetaccording to the four people, as the tech news site reported earlier Information.

The GRAD system means that Google now divides employees deemed underperformers into two categories, potentially resulting in more bottom-line workers than in one category under the old scheme. The system also had a bumpy rollout, with managers and employees confused about how it was supposed to work, according to the letter and four employees.

Google said it expects employees to become more comfortable with the system over time. It added that it had a no-surprises policy, meaning staff would know ahead of time if they underperformed.

Managers should also notify employees at a “support check-in” meeting before giving the two minimum ratings. Not every meeting like this results in a lower rating, Google said, and also offers support check-ins for those who need extra help meeting their obligations.

Employees will also have instructions if their managers want them to participate in a “performance improvement” program, which forces employees to make improvements within 60 days to keep their jobs, the company said. Google gives employees the option to stay on with a performance improvement program or resign through a buyout package.

Google said it made no changes to increase the number of performance plans and has offered these types of departure options for years.

This month’s letter to Fiona Cicconi, vice president of human resources, from some of Google’s employees in Switzerland was spearheaded by members of the 15-member employee representative committee ER-CH.

One of their main concerns is that, contrary to what some Google executives have said, the company may have quotas on the number of employees who should be registered for support, so their jobs may be affected.

Google says it doesn’t set quotas on support check-ins. But when the GRAD system was in place and few people used those meetings, it said, it required leaders to communicate the importance of the meetings to managers.

The Swiss memorandum signatories also said there was confusion among managers and employees alike about who was eligible for support registration. They urged Ms. Cicconi to put up guardrails before the system led to a mass fire.

“It’s normal for new processes to not work well at first, but this should not come at the expense of the well-being, careers, and compensation of Googlers,” they wrote.



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