How to back yourself and navigate tech layoffs
Google, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, Twitter, and other big names are in the news, having shed thousands of employees. And while websites such as Layoffs.fyi, which has been tracking tech layoffs since COVID-19, provide the numbers – 153,873 employees laid off from 529 tech companies in 2023 – these figures don’t tell the full story. The tech giants have different reasons for trimming their workforces, and putting companies in the same bag doesn’t help to navigate tech layoffs.
Amazon has invested billions of dollars in expanding its warehouse operations anticipating retail growth that hasn’t materialized. Facebook owner Meta has been on a costly mission to build the metaverse. Alphabet faces competition from Apple, Microsoft, and others as reivals see opportunities to scale their own advertising operations and eat away at search revenue. The details in the picture are more complex than appear upon first viewing.
Plus, focusing on tech layoffs alone without shining a light on the growth in headcount that preceded it omits more of the story. Firms that were more cautious in hiring, such as Apple, haven’t shed staff to the same extent. But that’s not to overlook the risk of copycat behavior as pressure grows on leadership teams by activist investors calling for cost-cutting to raise profits and stoke share prices.
“It’s difficult for organizations and difficult for individuals,” James Barrett, Managing Director of Michael Page Technology & Transformation – specialists in technology recruitment, told TechHQ. “But there is light at the end of the tunnel.” He points to research that 80% of CIO’s are still struggling to find talent and has advice on how to back yourself and navigate tech layoffs for those that find themselves on the redundancy list.
Barrett has insight for companies too, who may be eyeing opportunities to hire so-called branded employees who could bring star quality thanks to their experiences at tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, or Google. And he cautions against employers fuelling a salary bubble. “There’s always someone who can pay more than you,” he said. “Instead, firms may want to focus on their USPs, other benefits, and employee wellbeing.”
Will AI take our jobs? Yes and…
There are contradictions in the tech jobs market, with companies struggling to fill roles while reports of layoffs make the news. But smarter firms will be looking for untapped talent pools that they can invest in. Companies can benefit greatly from developing junior roles, and experts can advise hiring managers on where opportunities are being overlooked. “You want to bring people through that you can grow with,” Barrett emphasizes.
One of the consequences of firms putting a freeze on permanent headcount is that projects will start to fall over, and this, too, is an opportunity for tech workers looking for roles. Employees searching for work might be holding out for the security of a permanent position, but Barrett recommends that job seekers consider temporary roles too. Tech recruiters such as Michael Page are seeing year-on-year growth in the hire of temporary workers for 3-month contracts and longer. The extra experience earned will improve candidates’ chances of being shortlisted for permanent roles when economic conditions improve.
Barrett doesn’t claim to have a crystal ball, but he’s optimistic about the demand for tech talent. Cycles of change are happening faster, but they also tend to be shorter. The technology sector now has leaders who’ve been through two significant periods of major economic disruption – Covid and the global financial crisis.
Technology has a habit of advancing more quickly than companies can adapt to it. And once solutions become mainstream, those developments often prompt searches for new talent. It’s a pattern that could help staff navigate tech layoffs. For example, investment in data engineering has been a long-standing trend, and firms are keen to see a return on that. The next step will be visualization and building teams with those capabilities.
Markets are currently going through a period of change, but organizations still need to deliver on their core objectives and need staff to achieve those goals. There are also prospects for the growth of jobs in new areas, such as exploring commercial opportunities for advanced chatbots and other applications of generative AI. However, Barrett cautions that much remains up in the air, and the next big thing may be harder to call than commentators would have you believe.
In principle, employees could find themselves working as a ‘prompt engineer’ – a job title already hyped as ‘the next hot job in AI’. But, equally, the future could end up looking quite different. And while prospects for prompt engineers are unknown, developments in natural language processing are bringing changes in sectors such as coding and web design, and baking agility into your skillset could help to incorporate these and other developments into your workflow.
30 November 2023
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