Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in an email on Friday that the company needs to be more focused and productive, and has launched Simplicity Sprint to get feedback from workers about how to achieve that goal. The effort comes as Google faces criticism from President Donald Trump over its censored search engine in China, accusations of manipulating search results to favor left-leaning political views, allegations of anti-conservative bias, and other issues. The internal email from Pichai was first obtained by BuzzFeed News and later confirmed by Google with CNBC.

Google is planning to launch a new program called Simplicity Sprint that would streamline work and focus its employees during a difficult economic period.

CNBC reviewed documents and attendees from Alphabet’s all-hands meeting last Wednesday, when employees expressed concern over layoffs and CEO Sundar Pichai asked for input from employees. Even with the current headcount, Google’s productivity is not where it needs to be, Pichai explained to the employees in the meeting.

Pichai, referring to the company’s second-quarter earnings report, began by saying, “I wanted to provide additional context following our earnings results and ask for your help as well.” “It’s clear we are facing a challenging macro environment with more uncertainty ahead.”

He added, “There are real concerns that our productivity as a whole is not where it needs to be for the head count we have.” He asked employees to help focus more on our mission, our products, and our customers. We should think about how we can minimize distractions and really raise the bar on both product excellence and productivity.

The news comes after the company reported on Tuesday that it had missed earnings and revenue expectations for the second time in a row. Revenue grew at 13% for the company during the quarter in contrast to the company’s revenue growth of 62% in the previous year that benefited from post-Covid pandemic reopening and an uptick in consumer spending. CFO Ruth Porat said this year’s challenges would continue, but she did not provide any formal guidance.

It comes after Pichai recently announced that the company would slow hiring and investment through 2023, requiring employees to work “with greater urgency” and “more hunger” than shown on “brighter days.”

‘Simplicity Sprint’

Image Source: CNBC

I would love to have your help, Pichai said to the entire staff in an all-hands meeting, addressing their over 170,000 full-time employees.

So in order to help the development process, Pichai started a ‘Simplicity Sprint’ in which he reached out to crowdsourced ideas for simpler products. It is a term often used in software development and by startups to refer to short, focused pushes toward a common goal.

Pichai announced the company will let employees share ideas until Aug. 15 via an internal survey that asks if management can reach out if they have follow-up questions.

It’s an attempt to “get better results faster,” Pichai said during the meeting. The survey was viewed by CNBC and shows it may also be used to cut back in certain areas.

Some of the questions asked are: What can we do to 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?

And it arrives at a time when the company is trying to lessen tension between employees and executives, who weren’t being respected in terms of salary, promotions, and future endeavors.

Google executives highlighted a 7% dip in public approval about Google’s execution during the period. Prabhakar Raghavan at the time wrote That means we need to pay more attention to knocking down bureaucracy. Raghavan is among the most important and influential executives at the company, overseeing search, ads, mapping and other departments.

Back in May, the company said that it would change the way that they pay people to compensate them more while simplifying the way they offer pay increases.

“A little anxiety”

The executives addressed layoff concerns in the all-hands meeting on Wednesday. In light of Sundar’s statement that Google’s focus will be sharpened through consolidation and streamlining, should we expect layoffs in light of this statement?

When asked to comment, Pichai deferred to Google’s chief people officer, Fiona Cicconi.

Although Cicconi said layoffs aren’t in the future, she didn’t rule them out.

We want teams to work with more focus and efficiency, and to figure out what that means for the company in the future, which might require some staffing changes, but the decision is not imminent.
Moreover, Cicconi added, “I really understand that there may be some anxiety around this based on what we’re hearing from other companies and what they’re doing, and, as Sundar explained, we’re still hiring for critical roles.” It is still the biggest hiring year in the company’s history, she told them.

All this considered, the head count has risen from 144,056 in the year before, to 174,014 in the past year, a 21% rise. As a result, the company announced last month it will slow hiring and investing through 2023. In a memo, Pichai said, “We are not immune from economic headwinds.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai repeatedly mentioned economic headwinds. “If you’re looking at what’s happening externally – I’m sure you’re reading the news – the people who use Google products are facing their own challenges right now.”