Google reveals it isn’t immune to coronavirus

In an internal memo to staff, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said the firm will slow down hiring for the rest of 2020 but will honour any offers made to new employees.

Obtained by Bloomberg, the memo states Google will slow down its recruitment mission, focusing more on strategic units and onboarding new employees who have already been offered a contract.

“We’ll be slowing down the pace of hiring, while maintaining momentum in a small number of strategic areas and onboarding the many people who’ve been hired but haven’t started yet,” a Google spokesperson said.

Year Total headcount Year-on-year change
2019-end 118,899 +20.3%
2018-end 98,771 +23.3%
2017-end 80,110 +11.1%
2016-end 72,053 +16.5%
2015-end 61,814 +15.3%

Numbers taken from Alphabet Quarterly Results

Google has been scaling its business in recent years, thanks to more companies venturing into the digital economy but also expanding its horizons beyond digital advertising. The core business still accounts for the majority of revenues, but Google is much more than just a search engine nowadays.

The Cloud business unit is the most obvious place to look for a surge in employees. Revenues in this business unit grew from $4.056 billion across 2017 to $5.838 billion in 2018 and $8.918 billion in 2019. This is a rapidly growing sector with huge potential for growth and will encourage Google to continue hiring. Elsewhere, ideas like Loon, Verily and Sidewalk Labs are growing after graduation from the Moonshot labs.

Looking at its Moonshot labs, where the weird and wonderful ideas are concocted, expenses increased 16.1% ($4.599 billion) year-on-year to $26.018 billion. The majority of this jump has been attributed to a 23% increase in headcount. This is where Google is most likely to be slowing down its recruitment to ensure core operations, and revenue which can be secured today, is prioritised.

In the memo, Pichai states:

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 dialling 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

Google is not alone in making adjustments to its recruitment policies during the coronavirus outbreak, Microsoft is reportedly doing the same. However, it does demonstrate Silicon Valley is not immune to the impacts of the pandemic.

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