When Google announced late January it would lay off 12,000 workers globally, it started with U.S. employees while those in other countries, including Canada, waited in suspense to see if they would keep their jobs.
The suspense ended Monday, with Google Canada sending out notice to Canadian employees. Spokesperson Lauren Skelly declined to say how many Canadians were laid off or to give other details.
Google Canada employees declared on social media that they either made it through the layoffs, or didn’t.
“Entering my … funemployed era. 2023 is really off to something,” said Sami Nguyen on Twitter. “In all seriousness, I am grateful for my 2 and a half years at Google Cloud Canada. Open to the next opportunity.”
New opportunities are indeed on the horizon for some former Google employees, says President of the Council of Canadian Innovators Ben Bergen. “I have had 2 Canadian tech CEOs reach out to me looking to hire people who might have been laid off in Kitchener,” he said on Twitter.
Google has offices in Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Vancouver, Montreal, and Edmonton.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company, Alphabet, announced the global layoffs in a company blog post on Jan. 20.
“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,” he said.
He outlined the severance package U.S. employees would receive and said “Outside the US, we’ll support employees in line with local practices.” Among the offerings to laid off workers in the United States were 16 weeks salary plus two weeks for every additional year at Google, and healthcare and immigration support for six months.
Google had a great increase in revenue—more than 41 percent from 2020 to 2021—and had expanded its staff. But a downturn followed. “We hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today,” Pichai said.
At a town hall on Jan. 23, he said 750 senior leaders were involved in the process of making the staffing cuts and it took weeks to decide.
‘Poor Financial Discipline’
In November, activist shareholder TCI Fund Management told Alphabet it should downsize.
TCI owns shares in Alphabet worth more than $6 billion. It said in an open letter to Pichai, “We are writing to express our view that the cost base of Alphabet is too high and that management needs to take aggressive action. The company has too many employees and the cost per employee is too high.”
It said the company’s cost growth had outpaced its revenue growth, “a sign of poor financial discipline.”
TCI said Alphabet pays some of the highest salaries in Silicon Valley, with a median salary of US$295,884 in 2021—that’s 67 percent higher than Microsoft and 153 percent higher than the 20 largest listed tech companies in the United States.
Other Tech Companies Downsizing
TCI quoted Altimeter Capital’s Brad Gerstner: “It is a poorly kept secret in Silicon Valley that companies ranging from Google to Meta to Twitter to Uber could achieve similar levels of revenue with far fewer people.”
Google isn’t the only tech giant to have downsized recently. Mark Zuckerberg announced in November that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, would reduce its headcount by 13 percent—letting go of about 11,000 employees.
Also in November, Amazon announced it would lay off 10,000 employees in corporate and technology roles.
On Monday, Dell announced it would let go of about 5 percent of its global workforce, about 6,650 employees.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.