Home / Companies / People /  ‘Fun didn’t always..': Google CEO Pichai addresses employee query on company's 'aggressive cost saving'

As Google's parent Alphabet, Meta and several other companies look at a probable plethora of economic challenges about to hound the industry in the near future, an audio clip accessed by CNBC of Google's CEO Sundar Pichai addressing the companies all-hands meeting, has drawn a grim picture. 

Google CEO Pichai in addressing the grievances of his employees was heard saying, “I remember when Google was small and scrappy," and added that, “We shouldn’t always equate fun with money."

Google has been traversing a difficult path since after Alphabet reported its second consecutive quarter of weaker-than-expected earnings and revenue. The third-quarter sales growth is expected to dip into the single digits, down from more than 40% a year earlier.

The all-hands, known as TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) was in New York, where Pichai took questions in front of a live audience of employees. It is also important to note that this comes at a time when Google witnesses slowing growth, cost-cutting and employee dissent over cultural changes. 

Nickel-and-diming employees

Pichai faced tough question from his employees at the all-hands meeting. The questions were related to the incessant slashing of travel and entertainment budgets, managing productivity, and potential layoffs, as confirmed by the CNBC report. 

The employees raised concern when they mentioned that their travel and swag budgets have been slashed at a time when ‘Google has record profits and huge cash reserves’. 

Pichai's response:

Google CEO Sundar Pichai admitted during the meeting that it was not just the economy that affected the company but also an expanding bureaucracy at Google. “The fact that you know, we are being a bit more responsible through one of the toughest macroeconomic conditions underway in the past decade, I think it’s important that as a company, we pull together to get through moments like this." Pichai said. 

Pichai reminded his employees, “We don’t get to choose the macroeconomic conditions always."

Notably, Google has canceled the next generation of its Pixelbook laptop and cut funding to its Area 120 in-house incubator, according to the CNBC report. 

Pichai also did not answer question put forth by the Google employees regarding ‘plans for potential job cuts, after news leaked about the Pixelbook pullback and the cuts at Area 120, which affected workers ability to focus on work.’

It is to be noted that Pichai brought in total pay last year of $6.3 million, while other top executives made more than $28 million.

Google can be fun even without ‘Swag Item’

Pichai addressed his employees' growing concern of cost cut that took away that ‘fun-perks’ which is responsible for making Google one of the most employee friendly office space to work in. The CEO reiterated and said Google culture can be fun irrespective of the swag items. 

Pichai said, “I remember when Google was small and scrappy," he said. “Fun didn’t always — we shouldn’t always equate fun with money. I think you can walk into a hard-working startup and people may be having fun and it shouldn’t always equate to money."

Return-to-office policy: 

Employees asked about the company's plan on return-to-office policy “while also saying no need to travel/connect in-person."

“I do understand some of the travel restrictions at a time like this and RTO and people wanting to see each other, definitely is not ideal," Pichai responded. “If you haven’t seen your team in a while and it’ll help your work by getting together in person, I think you can do that. I think that’s why we are not saying no to travel, we are giving discretion to teams."

Hiring freeze:

The Google CEO Pichai addressed a question about why the company has shifted from “rapidly hiring and spending to equally aggressive cost saving."

“I’m a bit concerned that you think what we’ve done is what you would define as aggressive cost saving," he said. “I think it’s important we don’t get disconnected. You need to take a long-term view through conditions like this."

He added that the company is “still investing in long-term projects like quantum computing," and said that at times of uncertainty, it’s important “to be smart, to be frugal, to be scrappy, to be more efficient."

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