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Sharpen your knives: 81% of CHROs say they’re cutting head count

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today, Amazon and Qualcomm are freezing corporate hiring and big cuts are coming to Twitter, Lyft, and Stripe. Apparently, sleeping on the office floor is back. And 81% of HR execs told PwC they were reducing head count through layoffs, more aggressive performance management, or otherwise.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

Sharpen your knives

Elon isn’t the only one planning big cuts to his workforce. If you’re not scaling back, you’re in the minority of HR chiefs, according to a new Pulse Survey from PwC. Four out of five chief HR officers across sectors told PwC they were reducing their workforce “to a great extent.”

  • That’s not just layoffs — the 81% of CHROs who said they were cutting staff included those who are doing so by offering early retirement, not backfilling positions as employees leave, and freezing hiring. The number of execs who said they were doing layoffs has declined since PwC’s August survey, according to PwC’s workforce strategy partner Julia Lamm.
  • Companies have been so “panic-stricken” about finding talent in the last two and a half years that these methods of getting rid of employees have fallen out of focus, Lamm said.
  • Many PwC clients held on to underperforming employees during the pandemic because of the labor shortage, Lamm said on a call with reporters Wednesday. “They were basically saying, ‘OK, fine, I’ll keep the lower performers I have just because I don’t feel like I’m going to be able to find anything else better out there.’”

Managing out low performers is easy enough — keeping employees engaged and productive is harder. Execs expressed more confidence that their companies could eliminate unwanted employees than ensure high performance.

  • 77% of execs said they were either “completely confident” or “mostly confident” in their company’s ability to “exit low performers.” Only 67% said the same about preventing “quiet quitting.”

Amid all these cuts, companies are still hiring. The so-called labor market paradox that surfaced in PwC’s Pulse Survey in August — where companies were both cutting staff and staffing up — is still in effect.

  • This time around, 44% of execs said they expected to continue hiring for “specific skill sets” in order to support growth in the next 12 to 18 months.
  • “They’re being more cautious,” Lamm said. “They’re looking to rebalance their workforce to make sure they have the skills they need for the future.” Cybersecurity, risk management, and ESG are all areas of interest among clients who are hiring, she added.
  • Much of this varies by industry. Tech, media, and telecom made up a combined 15% of the survey’s 657 respondents, who largely came from industries such as industrial products (28%), consumer markets (23%), and financial services (19%).

Return-to-office is on the rise. Across industries, 42% of execs said they now expect employees to work on site four or five days per week, and another 22% said they required three days per week of in-office work. (Apparently we can count Musk among this group — the new Twitter boss is planning to order the company’s employees back to the office.)

  • Almost 70% of executives said they agreed or strongly agreed that management showed a preference for offering more advancement and pay to in-office workers than remote staff.
  • Two-thirds said they were worried about employees not coming back to the office quickly enough.
  • Almost all CHROs said they were offering training, coaching, and mentoring opportunities at the office as a way to draw employees back, and 93% said they were revamping offices to encourage productivity. But in each case, only about half of CHROs said these tactics were effective.

Skills gap

Green jobs and corporate climate pledges abound, but skilled sustainability professionals are scarce. A new report from Microsoft and the Boston Consulting Group on “closing the sustainability skills gap” found that 57% of sustainability professionals lacked a sustainability-related degree, and that more than 40% had no more than three years of sustainability experience.

The job opportunities are increasing — green jobs grew 8% per year between 2016 and 2021, according to the LinkedIn Green Jobs report. But the talent pool lagged, only growing at 6%. Scientists are leaving academia and engineers are leaving Big Tech in order to work on climate tech, but that might not be enough to fill the widening gap.

Read the full story.


No two recessions are alike. In fact, eight in ten workers reported looking for a new job before the upcoming market shift. Learn what HR can be doing to ensure meaningful retention today and in the near future.

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More face time, more trust

Trust and transparency in the workplace are on the rise as knowledge workers head back to the office, according to a new report from Atlassian.

  • More than two-thirds of workers surveyed in the U.S. and Australia said there was a “very high level of trust in leadership” where they work, up from 57% last year.
  • Workers were also more likely to report that they could “see how decisions are being made” than they were last year. More than 60% of respondents agreed with this statement, compared to 51% in 2021.
  • These changes coincided with a move toward hybrid work. Hybrid was the most common work setup this year, with 43% of workers reporting they were splitting time between home and the office. Last year, hybrid lagged behind both full-time remote work (34%) and full-time in-office work (39%), with only 27% of workers reporting they were hybrid

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating, or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬇️ Stripe is cutting 14% of its workforce, which will bring its head count to around 7,000.

⬇️ Twitter is reportedly preparing to lay off half of its workforce, which entails around 3,700 jobs, starting Friday.

⬇️ Lyft is cutting 13% of its employees, around 700 in total, The Wall Street Journal reported.

⬇️ Amazon is freezing corporate hiring, the company announced on Thursday.

⬇️ Qualcomm said it froze hiring at the start of the quarter, according to CNBC.

⬇️ Chime laid off 12% of its staff, around 160 employees, despite being “well-capitalized,” as co-founder and CEO Chris Britt told employees in a memo.

For more news on hiring, firing, and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.


In conversations around pay equity and pay transparency, the stakes are high and the responsibility is stressful for HR. Learn how to confidently and capably discuss these topics with everyone from executives and managers to entry-level employees with three important steps.

Learn more

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

“Ask her not to walk like that.” Women face massive sexism challenges in the tech industry in India. (Rest of World)

Sleeping on the office floor is back — at Elon Musk’s Twitter, at least. (Insider)

Everyone’s productivity is plunging. (The Washington Post)

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