Since mid 2022, tech companies have laid off thousands of workers amidst falling sales and earnings and admissions by some CEOs that they may have been overzealous about hiring in recent years. The never-ending rounds of job cuts over the last ten months have drawn the ire of workers, many of whom gravitated to these companies for their employee-friendly cultures.
The workers remaining at these companies not only find themselves making up the slack for their laid-off counterparts, but also find the perks they got used to have either been eliminated or drastically reduced.
A recent Techcrunch article quoting information from the layoffs.fyi said over 168,400 workers have been let go by tech companies thus far in 2023, which already exceed the total number of workers laid off in 2022. Some of the companies that previously engaged in layoffs decided to let go of more workers in an effort to better align their workforce with business goals.
Meta At It Again
Once of the repeat offenders is Meta, the originators of Facebook, who in mid-March confirmed rumors that the company would cut another 10,000 workers as well as eliminate 5,000 open positions. Meta first made news last November, when it laid off 11,000 workers, about 13% of its workforce. According to reports, many of these cuts are in customer service positions, which leave holders of Facebook and other social media accounts fewer people to contact regarding hacked accounts and other service issues.
Amazon also decided to lay off more workers, announcing last month it would cut 9,000 additional workers, with 10% reportedly part of AWS (Amazon Web Services). Amazon announced in January it would eliminate 18,000 corporate positions.
The Techcrunch article also noted that in late March, Microsoft announced it would cut 559 positions at its Bellevue and Redmond locations, as part of an earlier announcement the software provider would eliminate 10,000 jobs. Those affected also include a team dedicated to guiding AI innovation leading to ethical and responsible outcomes, which will be a blow for those advocating that large companies be more responsible implementing AI.
Even Apple, which unlike other tech companies was more conservative about adding employees during the hiring boom in recent years, did not escape the layoff binge. The consumer electronics company recently said it would lay off a small, undisclosed number of workers on its retail teams. Apple has seen a slump in smartphone sales as well as its personal computers.
According to Layoffs.fi, other tech companies that recently laid off workers include Roku, GitHub, Disney, Salesforce (again), and Accenture.
Adopting to Changes
While many tech companies have been known to give relatively generous severance packages to laid-off workers, the manner in which some layoffs were handled, such as through e-mails, irked many. Some recruiters believe the fact that these companies have rarely if ever engaged in layoffs previously may have been a factor.
“When you have been in business a long time, there is an established strategy,” said Mina Alexander, Vice President of People and Talent at Horizen Labs, a supplier of blockchain tools. “Companies that are relatively new may not be used to layoffs.”
Dipti Desai, former Uber engineer and the CEO and founder of Crstl, a company that provides SaaS solutions, believes that some tech companies judged their progress by the number of people they added. “During the pandemic, the thought was that more tech was needed and this led to new areas of experimentation and to hiring.”
Desai reiterated the technology sector has always been cyclical. “Tech is subject to macroeconomic factors, and the companies are in the business to make money. When they don’t, they wind up getting rid of people.”
Perks Gone, Too
Besides dealing with the workloads left by departed employees, workers at the affected firms also find many of the benefits that attracted them to many of these tech companies have also been eliminated as a cost-saving measure.
According to reports, Meta trimmed $1,000 from the health and wellness benefits for each employee, on top of cancelling on-sites laundry and ending a $200 per month Lyft subsidy program.
Google, which laid off 12,000 workers in January, eliminated free in-house massages, which resulted in the axing of its entire staff of massage therapists.
Twitter, which Eton Musk ravaged last Fall in a series of layoffs, took away or reduce a number of perks, including free lunch. In an infamous rant, Musk at the time demanded employees go hard core on the company or resign.
While the near-term outlook remains uncertain, Horizen Labs’ Mina Alexander is cautiously optimistic the worst may be over. “We are probably at the tail end of the layoff situation, but you never know.”
The sector Alexander’s firm is in, blockchain, has taken a hard hit in recent months, with many companies laying off workers. She believes despite the issues facing the sector, there will be opportunities for the technology in the future. “Our firm wants to build sustainable blockchain for the enterprise.”
Another uncertainty is the effects of AI, as tools such as ChatGPT gain popularity. Recruiters, while hesitant to speculate on whether AI will result in the loss of jobs, nevertheless believe AI will definitely affect many job tasks and workers will have to adapt.
“There has been a lot of progress in AI within the last 6 to 12 months,” said Crstl’s Dipti Desai, “Some people will learn how to work with it and embrace it. Change is the only constant.”