Google cuts Cloud jobs amid renewed AI push, American Airlines union declines pay raise amid push for more change

Plus, the Airbnb CEO talks about layoff comms.

Greetings, comms pros! Let’s take a look at a few news stories from the last week and see what we can learn from them.

1. Google cuts jobs in cloud unit in conjunction with AI double-down

Google is cutting more jobs on the heels of several other rounds of layoffs,  this time in its Cloud unit. The move follows the company’s furthered commitment to AI initiatives.

According to Business Insider:

“As we’ve shared before, we continue to evolve our business to meet our customers’ priorities and the significant opportunity ahead,” a Google spokesperson told BI in a statement. “We maintain our commitment to investing in areas that are critical to our business and ensure our long-term success.”

As unfortunate as it is, layoffs happen. But we’re more concerned about why they happen and how they’re communicated. If the business needs a refocus, that’s all well and good. However, a lack of context or specificity makes this news seem like an outright push for eliminating roles in favor of AI. Whether that’s true or not, Google missed an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and governance principles for using AI responsibly which only begs more questions. If your employees are worried about AI’s implications on their roles, be sure to talk to them about it clearly and transparently. Getting out in front of ambiguity is the best thing a company can be doing that’s investing heavily in AI — whether they are industry leaders or not.

2. American Airlines union rejects pay raise as talks continue

American Airlines and its employee union are headed back to the drawing board after the union rejected a 17% raise, claiming more needs to be done on AA’s end.

According to CNBC, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said that negotiations will continue amid the looming specter of a potential strike. The union pushed back on the original offer, seeking concessions that are longer-term.

“So, to get you more money now, we presented APFA with a proposal that offers immediate wage increases of 17% and a new formula that would increase your profit sharing,” Isom said Wednesday. “This means we’ve offered increased pay for all flight attendants and are not asking your union for anything in return. This is unusual, but these are unusual times.”

Julie Hedrick, the union’s national president, said that the airline’s focus should be on preparing a longer-term deal with the flight attendants.

“This is not that,” she said.

Union comms are critically important for communicators to get right. There are a few crucial things you need to do at the start, including actively listening to employee concerns and familiarizing yourself with laws and regulations surrounding what can be communicated where—and about whom. Consider that every case is unique, treat it as such and don’t lean on what other companies have done in the past. Work with union reps to translate what the unions are asking for to executives who may not be considering emotional responses or social concerns, align your responses within your business culture, and proceed with those things at the top of your focus.

3. Airbnb CEO walks through the importance of visibility and empathy during layoffs

Layoff comms can be tough, and there are some comms dos and don’ts to follow when they happen. In a recent podcast interview with Wharton School professor Adam Grant, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky shed some light on the emphasis he put on visibility and transparency amid the company’s layoff comms back in 2020.

“That layoff letter that I wrote, I was not universally advised to do it,” Chesky revealed on Grant’s podcast. “There was a lot of concerns about me being visible and present.”

Chesky said he was told that he would be put in an “uncomfortable position” for the move.

“I said: ‘Of course I will be,'” he recalled. “And that’s my job to be put in uncomfortable positions and to navigate them and to just show them that I’m human. I’m doing my very best, and to show them how I’m thinking about it.”

Seeing this level of openness and transparency from a leader about a layoff is refreshing. The human touch in times of strife like layoffs isn’t just important for the people who have dedicated years of their working lives and are losing their jobs—it’s also crucial to consider of how a leader’s words will influence culture for those who remain. Employees are your greatest resource, and showing them your leaders are also actual people goes  a long way toward fostering a culture of belonging.

4. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend comms all-stars!

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