Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has announced a massive round of job cuts, about 12,000 roles (6% of its global total). This dance step has become very common with Microsoft, Meta (Facebook’s parent), Amazon, Twitter, and many other big tech companies participating. The rapid hiring during the pandemic ephemeral boom created unsustainable headcounts which these firms are trying to normalize.
Google parent company Alphabet announced Friday that it is cutting around 12,000 jobs, or 6% of its global workforce. The company stated that while the layoffs would occur in all regions and hit most units, they may affect teams such as recruiting more. Alphabet follows tech giants such as Microsoft (LinkedIn’s parent company), which announced layoffs earlier this week, as well as the likes of Meta and Amazon. Many of Big Tech hired extensively during the pandemic to cope with enormous demand, and are now contending with an uncertain economic climate and record-high inflation, forcing most to tighten their belts. (LinkedIn News)
Yet, it goes beyond blaming decisions made during the pandemic. The real deal is that markets and companies are evolving. In this decade, we are moving into the dawn of application utility age and many combinatorial systems are converging to reshape the workforce. The implication is that even tech cannot save itself from tech avalanche. In other words, as automation hits the workplace, tech will also take jobs away from tech.
The Wave 2 of the innovation society with AI and autonomous systems evolving at rapid pace from laboratories and garages will transform our world (see video below). With blockchain providing a deeper level of order, the workplace will be radically different in years and we will not need many people for many things.
The message is clear: even tech skill will not save any person from tech layoffs these days. This also means that most business models will collapse (yes, those training techies to feed American and European big tech companies). What will save a career is the ability to adapt and learn the next big thing, because the tech innovations of today will create opportunities for new tech skills of tomorrow. That is why we must never stop learning! If we have that spirit, we will all be fine.
Of course, the economy remains in a state of fluid as I have noted: “Of course, we cannot decouple from the war in Russia. As this war continues, we are re-learning that Russia is indeed a very powerful country in the world. Without the war, the UK might not have changed its prime ministers, Germany its defense minister, and many other exogenous and endogenous events within Europe and beyond, would not have happened. Unfortunately, the war is still ongoing, creating problems for everyone, with Ukraine paying with blood and others with wallets and pulses. I hope they find a solution because it is the root cause of most things, from inflation to poverty in some lands.”
Tech’s allure may be dimming, according to new data from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph. The industry’s appeal as a career destination declined in the fourth quarter from a year earlier in consumer services (-40.1%), administrative and support services (-39.4%), government administration (-35.2%), manufacturing (-31.1%) and retail (-30.8%). Across the board, employees in these industries are less likely to be leaving for tech jobs. (LinkedIn News)
The Google statement is here
I have some difficult news to share. We’ve decided to reduce our workforce by approximately 12,000 roles. We’ve already sent a separate email to employees in the US who are affected. In other countries, this process will take longer due to local laws and practices.
This will mean saying goodbye to some incredibly talented people we worked hard to hire and have loved working with. I’m deeply sorry for that. The fact that these changes will impact the lives of Googlers weighs heavily on me, and I take full responsibility for the decisions that led us here.
Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.
I am confident about the huge opportunity in front of us thanks to the strength of our mission, the value of our products and services, and our early investments in AI. To fully capture it, we’ll need to make tough choices. So, we’ve undertaken a rigorous review across product areas and functions to ensure that our people and roles are aligned with our highest priorities as a company. The roles we’re eliminating reflect the outcome of that review. They cut across Alphabet, product areas, functions, levels and regions.
To the Googlers who are leaving us: Thank you for working so hard to help people and businesses everywhere. Your contributions have been invaluable and we are grateful for them.
While this transition won’t be easy, we’re going to support employees as they look for their next opportunity.
Update: Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice is after Google advertising business, accusing it of anti-competitive practices, LinkedIn News reports: “The U.S. Department of Justice and eight states have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, calling for a breakup of the search-giant’s advertising technology business. The lawsuit argues that Google has “corrupted legitimate competition” by taking control of a “wide swath of high-tech tools used by publishers, advertisers and brokers to facilitate digital advertising.” Filed in a federal court in Virginia on Tuesday, the suit calls for the unwinding of Google’s “anticompetitive acquisitions,” such as its 2007 purchase of ad-tool maker DoubleClick. The company is expected to earn about $66 billion in digital ad revenue in the U.S. this year, more than a quarter of the market. Google said the lawsuit “attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector.”
Comment 1: In summary, Automation tends to Absolute Efficiency and Jobs tend to Zero, but they never really get there, at least not in this century. They just simply tend to absolute efficiency and zero respectively.
As the Job Era closes, the Employment Era begins. We’re not in competition with technology as the development and application of technology are socioeconomically calibrated. AI Tech would enable new enterprise cultures different from what we know today. Yes, your future employment may not be a typical corporate 9-5 job, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be employed. Things would just be different, very different.
Comment 2: Globalisation gives us a sneak peek into the future as people living in Developing Nations. I dare to depict these global trends as preparing for the future and not as anxieties to be bothered by in the present because the implications of some global trends do not apply directly to our macro economy, simple because there are many cases where we still to have to go through many more phases before we reach some points of inflection.
I beg to differ that running robust AI models for example is still more expensive than using humans in this part of the world in many areas both from a literal and especially a policy point of view.
That said, a big deal to give more attention to is to train African youths to learn the technical and business side of Tech rather than to mainly aim to become offshore talent source or even migrants.
Needless to say, the peculiarities of our society in many areas already mean that many of our problems can only be tangentially and not directly solved by many solutions that are intended primarily for Developed Nations.
Our problems need our people to create our solutions with other benefits like getting more cut from the value chain of the entire lifecycle of such ìbíl?? (local) solutions!
My response: I am not sure many still believe in globalization looking at the experiment from Russia. China is looking inwards. US is cutting chips from China. The message is clear: no one wants to lose and globalization will not change that fact.
Comment 3: Thanks for this piece prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe but we may also need to deep dive into the details of the impacted roles for these lay offs. Yes, they are tech enabled companies with both tech units / departments and non-tech departments
For instance, I realized that the layoffs at Amazon affected mostly if not all non-tech departments / the retail unit
True, everything keeps evolving and we all need to continue to unlearn and relearn to remain relevant
Thanks again great prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe
My Response: In Google, do you really have non-tech roles? I understand that someone can say, I am in HR. But check what that person does, there is a high dose of tech in HR. They are all techies but offering services in many domains, from sales to HR to admin. The DNA is tech just as in Nigerian banking, every person is a banker but check deeper, less than 20% studied accounting/banking/finance in college.
So, when we say that a bank fired 100 bankers, that does not mean they are in credit or marketing. Some are engineers. That is how I look at Google and big techs. Everyone is a tech but you can be assigned to do anything under the tenet of tech.