Tech Layoffs: The End of an Era for More Than Just Jobs
“You're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do.”
That was both an infamous quote from Michael Corleone in the Godfather and the sentiment behind the many badly handled approaches to redundancies in big Tech. “The family” as a misappropriated cultural expression, overplayed by some HR and Employer branding fanatics during the long growth cycle, should now be confined to the history books forever.
Worse still, I have heard that some Tech companies have been utilising the 2008 banking playbook for “sure-fire redundancy strategies to diminish trust and credibility” in one fell swoop. Our old banking office access shoe shuffle, where a non-working fob was your ticket to the fast lane for immediate exit, has now been updated for the Tech-savvy, digital world. The sudden failure to access work devices, the automated e-mail templates or the sudden Teams meeting from HR. Shrugging shoulders, joining the job loss bandwagon as a mundane fiscal exercise, just won’t cut it in the long run and many human-centric PR puff pieces should now be subject to the trades description act as a result.
My old people tribe, having picked up more bouquets than an Olympic figure-skating champion during the pandemic, are now sadly back down to the relegation zone as a result, battling it out with facilities or outsourced IT support for the least likes.
Look, dismissals are tough things to handle at the best of times and despite the big numbers, these rates are still low in relative market terms. The out workings of how we got here are well publicised – inflation, rising interest rates, limited investment capital, cost of living, changing consumer habits, projected revenue downturn and course correcting the over hiring splurge for Tech firm’s post-pandemic, encouraged by the same investors who now plead for restraint. All the facets of the modern capitalist economy being played out in accelerated fashion.
However, cloaked inside these major headlines are also companies going through job losses because of a normal cycle of slowing business growth. Nonetheless, we’ve been through this rodeo enough times to understand that in the longer-term layoffs often do not cut costs; do not increase stock prices; do not increase productivity, nor solve the underlying business problem, which is often an ineffective strategy, a loss of market share, or too little revenue.
So, if taken positively as a learning exercise, we should chalk up the end of an era for the following things as well :
- The ‘so what’ attitude to the impact on your people : Replace with a truly honest, empathetic approach to the trauma affected by layoffs. Your reputation is based on deeds and not PR puff pieces sitting in talent collateral.
- The short-termism, lack of investment & talent hoarding : Those winning over a long-term basis have redoubled efforts on being proactive on keeping relevant the skills and experiences of the internal workforce to retain talent, manage risk and avoid redundancy. Dial it up in 2023.
- The ‘cult of the CEO’ obsession : A recognition that innovation is a team game and that the obsession of the leadership development industry (currently a market worth €366m and rising) is based on a false, and outdated assumption that all-knowing individuals sitting at the top of our organisation chart drive value creation by themselves in these complex times. More team, less egos.
- The 20th century fixation on efficiency : A time when we overlayered our organisations with more complex internal structures as hiring went unchecked and spiralled out of control. The best HR leaders are challenging their board with constant critical thinking about skills, pace of hire and shape in the face of constant market forces. Liquid workforces, platforms, and data-inspired scenarios.
- The lazy, biased tropes that always ‘blame’ people : Nadia Rawlinson, former chief people officer at Slack, is the new poster child for those sticking lipstick on the pig that is mass redundancies. Her claim that years of management indulgence has now left us with a generation of entitled workers will worryingly see ill-conceived attacks on the kind of benefits, working patterns and assistance that have brought equity to life inside the better organisations. Be more human, not less, in the future.
And the final word goes to those being laid off.
Find a job in a company where they say people are their most important asset, and then actually check to be sure that the company behaves consistently with that espoused value, especially when the times are tough.
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