It's not just Elon Musk. Tech CEOs everywhere are quietly asking their employees to step it up or risk getting fired.




Twitter CEO Elon Musk.AP
Twitter CEO Elon Musk.AP  
  • Tech CEOs are turning up the heat, even if it's not as blatantly "hardcore" as Elon Musk's verbiage.

  • Major tech CEOs have been asking employees to step up throughout this year's stingier economy.

  • Employees at Google, Amazon and others have all been asked to work harder or risk their jobs.

Elon Musk has been cranking up the intensity at Twitter since taking over. Per Musk, there's a new "extremely hardcore" vision, "dense and intense" office structure, and an "arduous" road ahead - and employees need to be on board or leave the building.

Although other tech CEOs have not issued edicts as aggressive as Musk's, this year's economic downturn prompted leaders across the tech industry to tell workers they'll need to work harder, albeit couched in more diplomatic language.

If their language wasn't as belligerent as Elon's, the message was still similar: people would be expected to step up or find somewhere else to work.

At Meta, 'there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn't be her'

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told staff in early July that he would dial up the intensity of employee performance goals.

"Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn't be here," Zuckerberg reportedly said. "And part of my hope by raising expectations and having more aggressive goals, and just kind of turning up the heat a little bit, is that I think some of you might just say that this place isn't for you. And that self-selection is okay with me."

Later that month during the Q2 earnings call, Zuckerberg doubled down on that vision and shared that the company planned to "steadily reduce headcount growth over the next year," and that "many teams are going to shrink so we can shift energy to other areas inside the company."

In October, Meta told managers to mark 15% of its employees as "needs support" in what workers dubbed "quiet layoffs," Insider previously reported. Across tech, more companies are now demanding a specific number of workers be put on performance improvement plans and ultimately managed out of the company.

Alphabet needs to 'make the company 20% more productive'

In the summer, Sundar Pichai sounded the alarm that employee productivity needed to improve. Weeks later, Pichai told Kara Swisher at the Code Conference in Los Angeles that he wanted the company to be 20% more productive and it was "slower" because of increased headcount.

"Across everything we do, we can be slower to make decisions. You look at it end-to-end and figure out how to make the company 20% more productive," Pichai said. "Sometimes there are areas to make progress [where] you have three people making decisions, understanding that and bringing it down to two or one improves efficiency by 20%."

The search engine giant also changed its employee performance rating system this year, telling managers they were now expected to mark 6% of its employees - more than 10,000 people - in the lowest performance tiers, Insider previously reported.

Some managers at Google were also told to conduct a certain number of "support check-ins" with their workers, which is a meeting that managers must hold before putting employees on the lowest-scoring performance bracket, according to internal material viewed by Insider.

Amazon asked to 'accomplish more with less'

Already famously frugal, Amazon urged the company during an all-hands meeting in early October to "double down on frugality" and told employees to "accomplish more with less," according to leaked slides from the meeting.

The e-commerce giant in November significantly downsized its innovation lab Amazon Grand Challenge. If it closes entirely, it would join the ranks of other Big Tech companies that have shuttered their moonshot labs amid the economic downturn.

Amazon already has  "unregretted attrition rate," goals for managers, but this year it also cut 10,000 workers in November - the largest corporate layoffs it has ever conducted.

And shareholders have called out tech CEOs for operating with much higher headcounts than needed.

"It is a poorly kept secret in Silicon Valley that companies ranging from Google to Meta to Twitter to Uber could achieve similar levels of revenue with far fewer people," Meta investor Altimeter Capital said in an open letter in October, arguing that these companies would run even better with a smaller staff.

Google shareholder TCI Fund Management in November similarly told CEO Sundar Pichai in an open letter that conversations with former Alphabet executives "suggest that the business could be operated more effectively with significantly fewer employees."

CEOs and investors are now watching how Twitter - with around 66% of its staff cut - will operate. "Twitter may ultimately end up as the case study on efficiency," analysts at Bernstein Research wrote, "as 'Elon's Razor' will test just how lean these businesses can run."

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