Google chief warns bloated staff of ‘real concerns’ over productivity

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

Anna Moneymaker—Getty Images

Between slowing revenue growth and an increasingly murky outlook for tech companies in general, Google is tasking its employees to put in harder shifts at work.


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Amid a larger market downturn over the past few months, the tech sector has arguably fared the worst.

Thousands of tech company employees have been laid off, and with chatter growing that an inevitable economic contraction is on the way, more speculative stocks such as tech are bracing for the worst.

At Google—one of the biggest tech players around today—executives are urging employees to pick up the slack.

“There are real concerns that our productivity as a whole is not where it needs to be for the headcount we have,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, reportedly told employees last week.

Google’s goals

At a meeting between executives and Google employees, Pichai said that the company’s productivity has fallen behind its targets considering its number of employees, CNBC reported, after speaking with attendees and reviewing internal documents. 

Pichai reportedly asked workers to help pitch in by creating a company culture that would be “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,” he added.

Google did not immediately respond to Fortune‘s request for comment on the report.

Google employees reportedly voiced concerns about potential layoffs at the meeting. Last month, Pichai issued an internal memo to Google staff announcing that the company would be “slowing down the pace of hiring for the rest of the year.”

In the letter, Pichai wrote that the company would have to become“more entrepreneurial” and work with “greater urgency, sharper focus, and more hunger than we’ve shown on sunnier days.”

A week later, Google officially began a two-week hiring pause, which is set to continue into this week.

To help foster more entrepreneurship at the company, Pichai reportedly announced a new initiative that would facilitate employee feedback, and welcome new ideas, according to CNBC. 

The initiative will take the form of a survey, and is reportedly seeking employee input on how to increase efficiency and productivity, and how to create a company culture more focused on common growth goals.

‘Economic headwinds’

In his memo to employees last month, Pichai warned that Google was not immune to “economic headwinds” that were sweeping across the tech world in the form of layoffs and hiring freezes.

Since May, several other tech companies—including Uber and Meta—have announced hiring pauses in certain departments. Others, like Netflix, have approved layoffs this year.

Those same economic headwinds may be part of why Pichai is asking employees to remain laser-focused on productivity, as unencumbered growth in the tech space is no longer a guarantee amid this year’s market downturn.

Google parent Alphabet released its second-quarter earnings results last week, and while experts had forecasted bleak reports for tech companies, Alphabet posted relatively encouraging results, largely due to boosts in ad revenue from Google searches related to revitalized retail and travel industries.

But while revenue has ticked up slightly, it has slowed down since the early days of the pandemic.

Alphabet’s second-quarter revenue in 2022 was 13% above the same period last year, a significant slowdown since the company’s 62% revenue jump last year, largely due to higher expenses in research and development and sales and marketing departments.

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