5 Ways Google Can Avoid Eliminating 100 Jobs

Is eliminating 100 badly needed jobs in Detroit in the midst of an economic recession evil?. Or is it just business? It depends whether your company name starts in go and ends in ogle. If Google’s motto was “don’t be bad at business” the discussion would end there. But for a company making many googol of cents under the mantra of “don’t be evil” it doesn’t make sense.
Granted these were 100 recruiting jobs, one of the positions least likely to be in demand over the coming months. That’s still 100 people who now need, and are not likely to find jobs. Instead of looking for work, these people could be working for Google, focusing on doing kaizen (generating small, simple improvements) in their work, so that after the downturn they will have streamlined, world class recruiting processes. Google vice president Laszlo Bock, quoted in the Free Press today:

“Our long-term goal is not to trim the number of people we have working on engineering projects or reduce our global presence, but create a smaller number of more effective engineering sites, which will ensure that innovation and speed remain at our core”

Translation: We’re not hiring.
There is nothing wrong with making engineering sites more effective and efficient. In fact that is what Google should look at doing before cutting back on their people, the source of ideas for improvement. Or maybe they don’t think of recruiters as sources of creative ideas, only engineers and R&D people. That is a typical, if incorrect, point of view among managers of knowledge workers. Rationalizing job cuts is a very tough thing that many of us are having to do. Is it evil?
I googled evil: that which causes harm or destruction or misfortune
Google shouldn’t be the source of harm, destruction or misfortune to others. That is a hard path to walk as a for profit business in a free market economy. Competition can be destructive and bring misfortune to others. But it’s the path of their choice so Google should walk it and not just talk it. I don’t have 20% in my day to dream up ways to do good yet, unfortunately. Hopefully one day like Google, I will. Even in a few minutes, practical kaizen ideas come to mind easily to me, so the creative energies at Google ought to be able to demolish this list in lest time than it takes to Google “gemba kaizen”. Here are five things Google could do to save money rather than eliminating 100 jobs in Detroit:

  1. Google it. Maybe it will save some time. It’s not the first time this challenge has been faced.
  2. Let employees take not 20% but 21% of their time to work on whatever projects they want. Focus that extra 1% on how not to do harm to employment security of their people.
  3. Ask everyone in the company to take an hour of unpaid vacation. Maybe even 30 minutes.
  4. Take a page from another excellent company’s playbook and put the people to work doing community service, running on treadmills, brushing up on core skills. It won’t cost you $50 million.
  5. Set narrower margins, print on smaller paper, use draft quality to save ink like the lean and green approach the The Forest Grove News-Times is taking. I’m copying the entire short article below from the January 14, 2009 issue:

 

This newspaper, just like its readers and advertisers, is examining every dollar we spend. For us, newsprint is also our fifth largest cost of doing business – behind payroll, benefits, the actual cost of printing and our distribution expenses.
That’s why your News-Times this week takes on a bit different form: each page is one half of an inch narrower while being the same height.
This change will require us to trim a few words from each story (though we’ve gained back some space through design changes). But we believe this is a prudent decision both in terms of both economics and the environment.
Like most papers, our newsprint comes from pulp made from recycled paper, as well as wood waste products such as sawdust and fiber. But being sustainable as a newspaper is not just about how much fiber and pulp you use, but also the electricity, water and chemicals used in manufacturing the paper we print on.
In the case of the News-Times, our slimmer pages will save more than a ton and half of newsprint each year – thereby reducing our imprint on the environment. And in terms of the economy, the savings from using less paper will allow us to best focus our financial resources on publishing a great newspaper and also investing in our community.

Kudos, Forest Grove News-Times! It’s tough being a newspaper these days, but you haven’t lost your spunk. Well done.
Not long ago I saw that Google ran a campaign to solicit world-changing ideas on their website. There may have been a prize. That’s nice, but why not solicit a few ideas for how to prevent the elimination of jobs. To change the world, start in your own backyard. It’s disappointing that they haven’t taken a more creative approach to managing this downturn. They have the information, they have the style, they have teh skillz. Do they have the will?

3 Comments

  1. John Hunter

    January 16, 2009 - 6:35 am

    I agree Google should not layoff those employees. I am not sure they are though – the financial press sometimes takes liberties… Here is the text from Google’s site: “However, after much consideration, we have with great regret decided that we need to go further and reduce the overall size of our recruiting organization by approximately 100 positions.
    We know this change will be very difficult for the people concerned, and we hope that many of them will be able to find new roles at Google. They helped build this company, new hire by new hire, and we are enormously grateful for everything they have done.”
    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/changes-to-recruiting.html
    Google definitely announced they are reducing the size of the recruiting staff. Which seems perfectly logical to me. Given that decision, my suggestion would be finding other roles for those people to fill in your organization. And Google might well be doing that (what a press release says can’t always be taken at face value…).
    Also Google is closing several offices but indicates they are looking to offer the engineers (which implies they are not offering others though doesn’t state it directly) the option to move to other sites.
    I happen to really like what Google is doing overall. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be criticized for what they don’t do well, but I will admit I tend to be biased in favor of them. More on my thoughts on Google:
    http://management.curiouscatblog.net/category/google/

  2. Bill Spohnholtz

    January 16, 2009 - 7:29 am

    Skillz? Pleaze! 🙂
    I have to agree with you. Google and other once small innovative companies managed to keep their employees creative, motivated, and employed while they were making no money! Unfortunately, once they get larger they bring in the “experts” and with that comes some old style methods. When you lay people off you lose all the potential ideas they could of brought to the company, with a company that size there is lots of other areas you could have cut to save the equivilant of 100 jobs that would never bring a new idea in. Private jets perhaps? Ease on a few of the at work perks for all the employees. Or just bring a job you were contracting out in house and allow the employees you were going to lay off learn to do it.
    -Bill
    P.S. Us Washintonions are known for not having any accent – please keep are dialect clean and leave you “s” as “s” 🙂

  3. Jon Miller

    January 19, 2009 - 10:54 am

    Hi John – I agree that there is a lot to like at Google. My friend commented that Google is becoming “just another tech company” based on recent behavior, which would be sad.
    Bill – must be time spent recently on Twitter that is affecting my spelling skillz I mean skills.