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Google to slow hiring for rest of 2020, CEO tells staff

Google parent Alphabet Inc. is slowing hiring for the remainder of the year, the most drastic action by the web search giant since the Covid-19 pandemic began battering its advertising business several weeks ago.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the memo and added that the company will maintain hiring momentum “in a small number of strategic areas,”while “on-boarding the many people who’ve been hired but haven’t started yet.” At the end of 2019, Alphabet employed 118,899 people full-time.

The announcement shows how the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus response is even affecting some of the richest tech businesses. Microsoft Corp., the largest software company, paused some recruiting recently, according to Business Insider.

Compared with startups that are firing thousands of workers, Google remains a haven for current employees. But the company’s revenue has likely been hit as businesses slash ad spending to save money. The crisis has hammered the retail and travel sectors in particular, and these are major Google advertising customers.

“The entire global economy is hurting, and Google and Alphabet are not immune to the effects of this global pandemic,” Pichai wrote. “We exist in an ecosystem of partnerships and interconnected businesses, many of whom are feeling significant pain.”

It’s rare for Google to take such steps. The company cut some jobs during the financial crisis of 2009, but in recent years, it has gone on a hiring spree, adding more than 20,000 staff last year. It also reported $23.5 billion in capital

expenditures, with a major part of that invested in data centers, computer servers and related items.

Alphabet shares slipped less than 1% in extended trading on Wednesday. The stock closed at $1,257.30 in New York, leave it down 6% so far this year.

Since the coronavirus crisis began, Google has offered $800 million in grants and customer credits, and donated more than 4,000 Chromebook laptops to schools. The company asked staff to work from home globally in March, and has said it is covering wages and benefits for contract employees who work in its offices for a certain period. It has not announced any job cuts.

Here’s the full memo:

Hi everyone,

It’s now been well over two months since we closed the first Google offices in Asia out of an abundance of caution around the spread of COVID-19. We couldn’t have imagined then how much could change, and how quickly, for so many people around the world. Our thoughts remain with those who have lost loved ones and with those who are currently battling the disease.

We’re only a quarter of the way through 2020, and it’s already been the most unusual year in memory. None of us could have predicted that most of us would now be working from home during the biggest global pandemic of our lifetimes.

Despite these strange circumstances, it’s been remarkable to see us step up to meet this challenge by doing what we do best: being helpful. We’ve continued to show up for people in moments big and small, whether it’s providing accurate and

authoritative information to keep families safe; supporting products and infrastructure to keep our and others’ services running; and delivering great content to keep people’s spirits up in tough moments. We’ve also committed more than $800 million in grants, loans and ad credits to help small businesses and others affected by COVID-19, and Google.org has committed $50 million (plus an additional $2,500 in gift-matching per Googler) to help communities all over the world.

In addition to these efforts, many teams have been focused on helping governments and public health officials slow the spread of the disease. We’ve released insights based on aggregated, anonymized data to help public health experts measure the impact of social distancing measures. We announced a joint effort with Apple on contact tracing designed with strong privacy protections. And we’ve invested in ramping up testing (including through Verily) and the production of PPE and lifesavingmedical devices.

I am so proud of the way we’ve come together across the company, and I want us to continue living up to our important mission in the weeks and months ahead. It won’t be easy. Just like the 2008 financial crisis, the entire global economy is hurting, and Google and Alphabet are not immune to the effects of this global pandemic. We exist in an ecosystem of partnerships and interconnected businesses, many of whom are feeling significant pain.

The clear lesson from 2008 is that preparing early is key to weathering the storm and emerging in a position to continue long-term growth, as we have done over the past decade. So I wanted to share with you our current plans on what we think is the best path forward.

We are reevaluating the pace of our investment plans for the remainder of 2020. That starts with taking a more critical look at the pace of hiring for the rest of the year. For context, we hired 20,000 Googlers in 2019 had been targeting a similar number for 2020. We have already onboarded more than 4,000 Nooglers and Characters in the first quarter, and thousands of additional new hires are starting soon. Not only are we facing delays in getting everyone their essential equipment, such as laptops and security keys, there are challenges in getting Nooglers up to speed, trained and productive on their new teams.

We believe now is the time to significantly slow down the pace of hiring, while maintaining momentum in a small number of strategic areas where users and businesses rely on Google for ongoing support, and where our growth is critical to their success. By dialing back our plans in other areas, we can ensure Google emerges from this year at a more appropriate size and scale than we would otherwise. That means we need to carefully prioritize hiring employees who will address our greatest user and business needs. Your leads will be in touch with you about how this will work for your team.Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai told staff about the decision in an email on Wednesday. He also highlighted other areas of cost cutting, saying the company will be “recalibrating the focus and pace of our investments in areas like data centers and machines, and non business essential marketing and travel.”

If you have additional ideas about how we can free up or redeploy resources to make us more efficient and support our priorities, I welcome your thoughts and invite you to share them by replying here.

Amid this uncertainty, the bright spot for me has been watching everyone pitch in to help your teammates and communities, and to make things better for the people we serve. We’ll need that same level of energy, ingenuity and teamwork in the weeks and months ahead. Working

ogether, I’m confident that we’ll emerge from this challenge in a strong position.

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