Three Lessons Tech Can Learn from Recent Layoffs

Published on
Hywel Carver EM360

Article contributed by By Hywel Carver, CEO of Skiller Whale

In 2022, some of the world’s tech giants laid off staff, affecting almost 200,000 people so far. It’s far from over - Amazon has just confirmed plans to slash 10,000 jobs. Recent external factors have combined to create a perfect storm - a global recession; political instability and a widespread decline in advertising spending that hit many social media platforms hard.

Following over a decade of making hay, it was inevitable that some of the darlings of Silicon Valley (and their European counterparts) would eventually need to make cuts. For some, their hypergrowth was unsustainable and a course correction was necessary. However, it’s disheartening to see some of our industry’s top talent cast aside with little support.

While some companies have approached the layoffs in a respectful manner, some have definitely not. Now the dust is settling, it’s the ideal time to consider what the industry can learn from the experience, and where we go from here.

1.  Mass layoffs are a double for diversity

In an industry that already struggles to attract and retain people from minority groups, we must acknowledge that these widespread redundancies will exacerbate our diversity crisis.

When we hear of talented tech staff being unceremoniously dismissed, it portrays the sector as a risky career choice. People from lower socioeconomic groups just don’t have the luxury of accepting a job that might come to nothing.

Similarly, rumours of tech leaders suddenly calling remote workers back to the office send a hostile message, especially to those with disabilities and caring responsibilities. It depicts a culture in which differences are not tolerated.

Of course, this doesn’t entirely reflect our industry. There are plenty of brilliant tech firms out there who are working hard to be inclusive and to close our diversity gap. However, these stories rarely make headlines.

2.   We must nurture existing employees

Following a series of mass layoffs, your remaining workforce is likely to feel insecure and unconfident - rather than just grateful to have been spared. It’s common for teams to struggle with the new status quo. There are likely to be gaps in skills and productivity that those left behind are expected to fill.
This is the ideal time to step up and modernise your skill development game. Through focused deep coaching (that is, Diagnostic, Expert-led, Experiential and Problem-Based), you can ensure that each team member’s capabilities are harnessed in the right way.

You can run these sessions internally, or get external support - the key thing is to make sure that you’re seeing the skill development of your team as part of your tech strategy, not just a perk. If you get this right, you’ll be able to plug gaps and build a solid foundation for scalable,
sustainable growth.

By empowering and supporting your people, you’ll also create a trustful environment in which staff feel engaged.

3.  Jobseekers - ask questions before you sign

My final lesson is directed at anyone searching for a job in tech right now, whether as a result of mass layoffs or not. Take a proactive approach in ensuring you’re signing with the right kind of company.

Ask about their financial runway - how much cash do they have before they’d need to make cuts? Find out about opportunities for on-job skill development. If they offer flexible working, ask how it’s baked into the organisation’s processes and culture.

As we all know, things can turn on a dime in this industry. No one’s to blame for joining a company that unexpectedly goes downhill. However, we can all carry out due diligence to find out more about the values of the people we’re considering working for.

Let’s press pause on mass hiring

Tech has a tendency to hire, hire, hire - especially when a start-up starts performing well. It can seem like the only solution to the organisation’s scale-up pains.

However, adding headcount en masse is rarely the best decision. It’s stressful for existing employees, who must coach new starters and mentally adapt to the growing team. It’s also a risky strategy financially, evidenced by the recent layoffs.

Instead, it’s more cost-effective and supportive to focus on your existing people. Create a culture with continuous learning at its core, in which skill development is delivered on the job rather than expected after hours.

By doing so, the industry will move from a sector run by hobbyists who have time to study in the evenings, to one that’s professionalised. When everyone has access to the same learning opportunities, we level the playing field and become more inclusive.

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