Productivity And Focus Must Improve

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productivity

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks on stage during the annual Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, May 8, 2018.

Google is launching a new effort called “Simplicity Sprint” in an effort to improve efficiency and improve employee focus during an uncertain economic environment.

The Alphabet company had its regular all-hands last Wednesday, and the tone was somewhat urgent as employees expressed concern over layoffs and CEO Sundar Pichai asked employees for input, according to attendees and related internal documentation viewed by CNBC. Google’s productivity as a company isn’t where it needs to be even with the headcount it has, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in the meeting.

“I wanted to give some additional context following our earnings results, and ask for your help as well,” Pichai opened, referring to the company’s Q2 earnings report on Tuesday. “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 headcount we have.” He asked employees to help “create a culture that is 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.”

It comes after the company reported its second consecutive quarter of weaker-than-expected earnings and revenue on Tuesday. Revenue growth slowed to 13% in the quarter from 62% a year earlier, when the company was benefiting from the post-pandemic reopening and consumer spending was on the rise. CFO Ruth Porat said she expected some of the challenges to continue in the near-term but the company doesn’t give formal guidance.

It also comes after Pichai recently announced that it would slow the pace of hiring and investments through 2023, asking employees to work “with greater urgency” and “more hunger” than shown “on sunnier days.”

‘Simplicity Sprint’

“I would love to get all your help,” Pichai said in Wednesday’s all-hands meeting, speaking to its more than 170,000 full-time employees.

To that end, Pichai introduced a “Simplicity Sprint” initiative to crowdsource ideas for quicker product development. “Sprint” is a term often used in software development and by tech startups to denote short, focused pushes toward a common goal.

Pichai said the company is opening the floor for employees to share their ideas through August 15th through an internal survey that asks if management can reach out if they have follow-up questions.

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

Questions in the survey include “What would 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?”

The request also comes as the company tries to ease tensions between employees and executives after an annual “Googlegeist” survey showed staffers gave the company particularly poor marks on pay, promotions and execution.

Highlighting a 7% dip in views about Google’s execution, executive Prabhakar Raghavan at the time wrote “that means we need to bring more attention to busting bureaucracy.” Raghavan is among the most important and influential execs at the company, overseeing search, ads, mapping, and other areas.

In May, the company announced it would overhaul its performance evaluation process that will result in increased salaries while hoping to reduce the bureaucracy around compensation and raises.