So, the 80 / 20 rule (the Pareto principle) is now also a thing in managing your workforce, a certain E. Musk Esq would have us believe.
In an interview with then Fox New anchor Tucker Carlson (more on that story in a minute), Elon revealed that Twitter now had just 20% of the headcount it had when he acquired the business!
Elon’s certainly not shy in coming forward (no change there), taking a significant swipe at Zuck, as much for his politics as for his tech empire. In truth, Musk is also indirectly referencing Facebook (and Google) laying off thousands of staff, which serves to segway this into a conversation about the, possibly intentional, over hiring and under employing, of staff – hording talent as a means to deny access to competitors in their space.
As recruiters, let’s think about this for a minute.
In November of last year, we talked about the way Jaguar Land Rover seized upon the opportunity to hire those being let go from the tech industry, making them a pivotal part of the legacy auto manufacturers shift to EV production. Legacy auto has a reputation, rightly or wrongly, for being less capable when it comes to software development and delivery. For example, software delays leading to product launch delays, combined with internal politics, are suggested to have ended the tenure of VW Group CEO Herbert Diess.
Competing for talent with Google, Twitter, Facebook et al would have priced JLR and others out of the market, even if reputation wasn’t a factor (would Western tech types have placed auto manufacturers high up on their desirable places to work list pre mass tech layoffs? Highly unlikely.)
In talking with Carlson, Musk describes Twitter as ‘not that complex’ and ‘absurdly overstaffed’. Being dismissive of the work done to build a platform, which Musk, by his own admission, paid twice the current market value for, is certainly one way to lower your own flag. Now about that (personal) brand star factor, and referred desirability as a competitive recruiting advantage…. Shooting your own foot has rarely been such a compelling spectator sport. Or such a rich opportunity for innovators looking to secure talent at the expense of incumbents behaving like incumbents who think they’re still the bright young thing in their respective space.
In other interviews Musk has acknowledged the discomfort of the actions, accepted mistakes have been made, and highlighted that Twitter had only 4 months cash reserve at one point, that the business (as a result of his actions?) needed to take radical action to survive. Playing to the audience might well be a fair charge here.
Parking our political allegiances at the door, leaving then to be tended to by our moral compass, we step into a room where business is seen and discussed, only indirectly, as ‘about people’, yet clearly about their actions, and the outcomes of those actions.
Enter stage left Tucker Carlson, newly relieved of his post as anchor of Fox News.
Having laughed and gloated about the firing of 80% of Twitter’s workforce, the artist formerly known as the anchor of Fox News, stoker or rang (clicks likes and shares to sell advertising) for commercial benefit, then found himself surplus to requirements, a casualty of being the visible face (and mouth piece) of a brand that broadcast and repeated a particular untruth, on a global stage, resulting in a legal proceeding that cost the owners of the organisation some $787.5mn in settling a defamation claim. The irony of his ‘Twitter lets go 80% of its staff’ laughter, only 6 days prior, is surely lost on nobody.
“What’s the point in all this”, I hear you say?
Are we doing our best work for the right clients, or just for those clients whose high-profile reputation look favourable for us? Are we securing talent that makes a difference or putting bums on seats (irrespective of how talented and capable)? Do we see talent churn when placing bright young things in roles where the company is desirable and the work uninspiring? Is that helping us, as an industry? Are we helping candidates and/or clients achieve their goals? Or do we, indirectly, stifle innovation and underwhelm those we place? Is this vanity, or effectiveness? Is this vacuous or values based? What do we want to be known for? How do we want to be seen? Would we place Tucker Carlson, or recruit for an Elon era Twitter?
What do we stand for?