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The Efficiency Pendulum
Is it coming for us all?
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This week has been an emotional roller coaster, to say the least. On Tuesday, I announced that I’m leaving The Talent Company. Where I’m going? I can't spill the beans just yet, but I'm hopping off the consultancy train and jumping aboard an in-house role. Cue dramatic music.
As for FullStack HR, the plan is to keep it chugging along. After all, it's the perfect space for me to unleash my thoughts on HR and the future of work. I hope you'll continue to enjoy the ride and join me in lively discussions!
Now, let's grab our snorkels and dive into today's topic.
The Efficiency Pendulum.
On Tuesday, Meta dropped a bombshell, announcing yet another round of layoffs. Coming just a few months after their previous round, they've laid off nearly 20,000 employees. Ouch.
It's intriguing how the tech industry's narrative has shifted gears. It used to be "hire, hire, hire," but now it's all about efficiency, as Mark Zuckerberg's recent post discusses.
Could it be that Elon Musk's Twitter shenanigans have rubbed off on the industry? Zuckerberg's blog post does echo some of Musk's wilder tweets.
So what's the message? Zuckerberg highlights five key points, which we should all pay attention to as they're likely to impact us in one way or another:
Flatter is faster
Leaner is better
Keep technology the main thing
Invest in tools to get more efficient
In-person time helps build relationships and get more done
None of this is shocking, except perhaps the last point. And three out of five relate to people and HR.
The reason why we ended up here, with Meta doing cuts, is no secret, and I’ve talked about this somewhat in the past.
(Hint: It's because they hired, hired, hired.)
But there’s always good with more perspectives, and Gergely Orosz has an excellent post about why Apple hasn’t done any layoffs. Even though it talks mainly about that, it also shines a light on why companies such as Meta now need to reduce their headcount.
(Keep in mind that this is % growth. You've practically doubled in size if you hire 40% YoY two years in a row.)
The round of layoffs that came during the fall was no surprise.
However, the timing of the second round of layoffs is a bit surprising to me. Conventional wisdom says to cut once, cut deep, and cut fast. Yet here's Meta, only six months later, wielding the axe again, with no major revelations other than the five listed points, which is largely the narrative they also spoke about last year.
But what will this mean for us in the people departments?
(Yes, this is my favorite question to ask.)
Big tech companies have always influenced the rest of the industry. Though this may change in the coming years, they still shape how we conduct business. Even if Meta now feels as cool as Microsoft did when Steve Ballmer screamed his lungs out, many still look up to companies like Meta, Twitter, and Apple.
Smaller tech companies and their investors drive the "more with less" narrative as the environment shifts. While macroeconomics has undoubtedly changed, as we can see in the chart above, Meta remains profitable despite its massive headcount. So no, it’s not down to earnings here; now, this is a sentiment shift.
The pendulum has swung from "hire, hire, hire" to "efficiency, efficiency, efficiency."
Expect more efficiency-related chatter throughout the year. OKRs will likely take center stage, and productivity will be a hot topic. Usually, this means organizations want more control, especially over people. And it’s easy to get caught up in this narrative and try to assert more control.
I believe it’s our job in the people department to help balance and even this out. Help our leaders understand the context and achieve efficiency tailored to our specific workplaces. It’s not a one size fits all approach, and what’s working for Meta might not work at your workplace.
This is nothing groundbreaking, I know. But when the leadership team starts clamoring for more control or advocating for dreaded nine-box grids, we must step in. We need to keep our cool and remember what truly drives performance and engagement. (Hint: It's usually not nine grids and TPS reports.)
So what to do instead?
For me, it’s doubling down on trust and autonomy.
Why trust and autonomy?
Companies that sprinkle trust and autonomy into their secret sauce are sees greater results. This kind of culture lets folks take the reins, make decisions, and own their work, leading to a smorgasbord of creativity, innovation, and engagement.
To whip up this culture, organizations should focus on crystal-clear communication, hand over the keys to authority, equip employees with the necessary tools, and throw confetti when they succeed. Leaders should walk the talk by showing vulnerability, admitting when they goof up, and genuinely caring about their team's well-being.
We have a vital part to play in nurturing trust and autonomy, especially when faced with leaders itching for more control and less wiggle room.
By focusing on trust and autonomy, we can create a supportive environment that drives performance and engagement without resorting to outdated, controlling tactics. It's like swapping a rusty bicycle for a shiny rocket ship.
And as said, nothing new under the sun here. So how do we do that?
Here are a few suggestions, and I’ll probably have to revisit these and expand on them, but just to give you an idea of what have been working for me in the past in increasing trust and autonomy in organization and leaders.
Host open-hearted chats: Encourage see-through communication between employees and leaders, creating a space for free feedback and ideas.
Educate leaders: Host workshops or training sessions highlighting the benefits of trust and autonomy, emphasizing why empowering employees is important.
Cheer for flexible work: Rally for flexible hours and remote work options, helping employees balance their personal and professional lives.
Keep score: Track those key performance indicators (KPIs) that show how trust and autonomy to boost employee engagement, productivity, and retention.
Wave the flag: Be the trust and autonomy ambassador, nudging leaders to embrace this approach and showcase its effects. Lead by example.
This might have been an unsesseary reminder, but hey, then at least you got one, and I got one too.
See you next week!