Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg attempted to rally the troops on Thursday, following multiple rounds of layoffs that have decimated the social media giant’s workforce.
“Going through restructuring and layoffs and changes like this is obviously a very difficult thing,” Zuckerberg said. “So it’s not like we’re going to end up in exactly the place that we were before because that wasn’t my goal. I wanted to get to a scrappier place.”
Zuckerberg’s comments capped off a tumultuous period for Meta. On Wednesday, the company started handing out its final round of pink slips in a months-long campaign to slash more than 10,000 roles and close another 5,000 open jobs.
Meta, which owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, notified employees who were mostly concentrated in the company’s business division, which includes teams that work on, advertising, human resources and policy initiatives, that their jobs were being cut, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private events. Senior leaders also started announcing preliminary reorganization plans for their respective divisions, one of the people said.
In May, the company cut roughly 5,100 people, Meta human resources chief Lori Goler said Thursday. In March, the company laid off recruiters followed by around 4,000 cuts among technical teams in late April, The Washington Post has reported. The latest job cuts add to the November workforce reduction, which gutted about 11,000 jobs, or about 13 percent of Meta’s workforce.
Meta declined to comment.
The layoffs at Meta arrive as the company is battling a series of threats to its business model. Upstart apps such as the short-form video network TikTok have intensified the competition among social media companies for advertising dollars and users. Broader challenges in the digital advertising industry, such as new privacy rules from Apple and slowing growth in the e-commerce market, have hurt Meta’s coffers. Meanwhile, the company’s long-term bet to build out immersive digital worlds known as the metaverse shows no immediate signs of paying off.
Zuckerberg has deemed 2023 “the year of efficiency” as the company seeks to unwind a culture and management system used to easy money and hyper workforce growth. Meta has sought to reduce the number of management layers between interns and Zuckerberg. The company has also pulled back on some projects such as some of its hardware devices and services to support publishers.
One of the main goals of the efficiency work is to turn Meta into “a stronger technology company that can build better products faster,” Zuckerberg told employees Thursday. “And the second is about improving our financial performance so we can sustain our ambitious, long-term investments and vision in what I continue to expect to be a difficult environment.”
Zuckerberg said Thursday that the company doesn’t have another major companywide layoff planned but said “the world is also volatile.” And in the future the company plans to grow more slowly, which may mean that there are smaller layoffs when Meta decides to scrap a project in favor of a new one. He added he thinks having a lower head count will enable Meta to reduce bureaucracy and make it easier to get work done.
“It just forces us to find ways to be scrappier and get things done more efficiently,” Zuckerberg said. “It means that there are going to be fewer environments or projects where there are too many cooks in the kitchen, which is just a kind of common complaint that I hear over and over again across the whole company.”
Zuckerberg acknowledged that the business teams who were disproportionately impacted by the cuts were more diverse than the tech teams, which mean representation of some demographics took a hit.
On Wednesday, Zuckerberg told workers who had been laid off in a private call that while he appreciated their valuable contributions to the company their roles were no longer critical in the company’s streamlined future.
“We’re shifting the composition of the company and pushing it to become scrappier,” he said, according to a recording of the call listened to by The Post. That push is not a “reflection on you or the work you did.”
The cuts, which have affected roughly 10,600 people, have roiled Meta’s workforce. It’s been going through an unprecedented morale crisis as employees’ confidence in senior leadership and the direction of the company declines. Some have blamed top executives for failing to make better investments or hiring decision — problems they say partially led to the cuts. Others have complained that the company erred when it planned for the layoffs to take place over several months instead of just one day.
“I understand that layoffs are a part of life but this drawn out process has been unbearable,” one worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said in an interview. There was “so much uncertainty; no one was getting long-term work done.”
Wednesday’s cuts were particularly concerning for those who worked on trust and safety issues because they feared the layoffs would hamper the company’s ability to respond to viral political misinformation, foreign influence campaigns and regulatory challenges among other issues.
On Thursday, Zuckerberg that he expects to unveil new guidelines about how and where employees will work now that concerns regarding the pandemic have subsided. He wants more of a “critical mass” of employees working together from the office at least a few days a week to improve performance and boost culture, he said.
And the company plans to revive internal culture partly by spending more time talking about its future innovations, including its investment in artificial intelligence. For instance, the company has invested more in AI infrastructure in the form of capital expenditures than it has spent on Reality Labs, the division that oversees its metaverse bet among other things.
“We really invested in building the AI capacity because now we can bring online all these different AI agents [while] the rest of the industry does this mad scramble to get capacity,” he said.
Talking about the future is not something leaders have been able to do over the last several months “because we’ve just been talking about efficiency and layoffs” Zuckerberg said.