Google CEO defends activity cuts in animated the city corridor as staff call for readability on procedure

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Sundar Pichai, CEO, Alphabet

Lluis Gene | AFP | Getty Images

Days after Google announced the largest round of layoffs in the company’s 25-year history, executives defended the job cuts and took questions from a concerned workforce during a town hall meeting on Monday.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai led the companywide meeting and told employees that executives will see their bonuses cut. He pleaded with staffers to remain motivated as Google faces heightened competition in areas like artificial intelligence, while also trying to explain why employees who lost their jobs were removed from the internal system without warning.

“I understand you are worried about what comes next for your work,” Pichai said. “Also very sad for the loss of some really good colleagues across the company. For those of you outside the U.S., the delay in being able to make and communicate decisions about roles in your region is undoubtedly causing anxiety.”

CNBC listened to audio of the meeting, which followed the company’s announcement Friday that it’s eliminating 12,000 jobs, or roughly 6% of the full-time workforce. While employees had been bracing for a potential layoff, they wanted answers regarding the criteria that was used to determine who would stay and who would go. Some of the laid-off staffers had long tenures and were recently promoted.

Pichai opened Monday’s town hall meeting acknowledging the Lunar New Year mass shooting in Southern Saturday night that killed 11 people and injured at least nine others.

“Many of us are still grappling with the violence in L.A. over the weekend and the tragic loss in life,” Pichai said. “I know more details are yet to come out, but it’s definitely hit our Asian-American community in a deep way, especially during the moment of Lunar New Year and we’re all thinking of them.”

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pay out 80% of bonuses this month with the rest expected in March or April. In prior years, the full bonus was paid in January.

Thomas Kurian, the CEO of Google Cloud, offered some perspective on the areas that saw cuts. Google’s cloud unit has been one of the fastest-growing areas for headcount expansion as the company tries to catch Amazon and Microsoft.

“Our engineering hiring is being much more targeted in areas where we need to fill out a product portfolio,” Kurian said. “We are adding sales and customer engineers in very specific countries and industries.”

Kurian said that starting in July, the cloud unit’s aim was to focus hiring “in response to generative AI across our portfolio.”

Like with other all-hands meetings, Google executives took questions from the company’s internal forum called Dory. Employees can post questions there, and they bubble up to the top when their co-workers give them an upvote.

For Monday’s meeting, some of the top-rated questions had to do with the process and communication around the layoffs. One comment said that employees are “playing a game of ping-and-hope-to-hear-back to figure out who lost their job. Can you speak to the communication strategy?”

Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of devices and services, said the company “deliberately didn’t share out of respect for people’s privacy.”

“We know this can be frustrating for people who are still here,” Osterloh said. “But losing your job without any choice in it is very difficult and it’s very personal and many people don’t want their names to be on a list that’s distributed to everyone.”

all-hands meeting whether the AI chatbot ChatGPT represents a “missed opportunity” for Google.”

Pichai said on Monday that “it will be an important year given the rapid advancements in AI,” which will have an impact across the company.

“There’s a paradigm shift with AI and I think, with the concentration of talent we have and work we will do here, will be a big draw and I hope it will continue to be,” Pichai added. “We have to keep earning it.”

He closed the town hall by bringing the discussion back to the topic at hand.

It’s evident, Pichai said, “how much you all care about your colleagues and the company.” He added, “I know it will take a lot more time to process this moment and what you heard today as well.”

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