Google layoffs: Has CEO Sundar Pichai just hinted at more job cuts soon?

The recent round of Google layoffs — the shock firing of 12,000 people that has now taken on legendary proportions in the tech world — could be followed by another round of redundancies, Google CEO Sundar Pichai appears to hint in his new interview published by The Wall Street Journal.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, considered a global icon in the tech industry for Indians, seen here with Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@SandhuTaranjitS

What was once the world’s most admired orgnisation — Google was voted ‘The Best Place to Work’ in America in 2014 — has now become almost synonymous with layoffs, even though other major tech companies, such as Meta (formerly Facebook) and Microsoft, have also announced in recent months their plans to fire thousands of employees.

In the interview with WSJ, Pichai said that Google had not yet hit its target of becoming 20 per cent more productive. That target was set in September 2022, and in January 2023, the company announced that it would fire 6 per cent of its staff, or about 12,000 people.

That Google is tightening its belt to deal with the changing tech trends was indicated by the April 6 report in WSJ, which said: “Last week, Google Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat told employees to expect more spending cuts in areas ranging from dining facilities to the company’s computing infrastructure, which is critical for developing and running powerful AI algorithms.”

Pichai said in the interview, “We are definitely being focused on creating durable savings. We are pleased with the progress, but there is more work left to do.”

At a time when it appeared that the Google search engine practically owned the world, making use of systems powered by Artificial Intelligence to analyse everything about Internet users, disruptive change came in the form of the November 2022 release of ChatGPT by OpenAI.

The OpenAI startup is backed by Microsoft and it was launched with the help of Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who has since moved away from the venture. Microsoft is integrating ChatGPT with Windows 11, and may include it in Office apps via Microsoft 365 Copilot. This poses a challenge to Google’s near-monopoly over how people search for information online.