Beijing time on January 3rd, Sundar Pichai, the new CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, began his first year. One of the challenges with the job is how to lead an army of eight times as many employees as a decade ago. Some senior Google employees have complained that the organizational changes and changes in the founder’s vision have made them unrecognizable, and that Google is no longer the company they first joined.
Explaining his departure, Ross LaJenesse, Google’s former head of international relations, said he had been kicked out of the company by Google because of human rights concerns. In Google’s early days, he says, executives often preached ethical standards over profits, and it was not possible for him to be kicked out of the company at the time.
One factor in Google’s change is undoubtedly the company’s rapid and sustained growth. When Eric Schmidt took over as CEO from Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, in 2001, The company had fewer than 300 employees. By the time the company went public in 2004, the number of employees had grown ninefold to more than 3,000, according to Google’s annual report.
When Page took over as Google’s CEO again in 2011, the company’s workforce grew ninefold to more than 32,000. More than four years later, Google restructured into Alphabet, nearly doubling its workforce to 61,814. As part of the restructuring, Alphabet separates Google from google X, Google Fiber, Google Ventures and other businesses. Pichai was promoted to CEO. Page continues to serve as CEO of Alphabet.
20 years of growth in Google’s workforce
Alphabet has more than 89,000 employees by 2018. Google said at the time that its staff outside its Silicon Valley headquarters was growing faster, opening offices and data centers across the United States, including a new 1.7 million-square-foot campus in New York that could accommodate 7,000 employees.
When Google’s two co-founders formally stepped down as CEO and president in December 2019 and appointed Pichai as CEO of Alphabet, Alphabet had more than 114,000 employees. Alphabet files show that the business with the largest increase in employee numbers is Google Cloud and Search.
Some former Google employees say the growth is not well managed. One reason he left Google was that senior management had begun to focus more on the number of employees in recent years, and there was bureaucracy, according to a former Google engineering director. That’s why Google’s reluctance to fire underperforming team members has affected him and other departments.
Google’s headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area needs more office space as the number of employees continues to grow rapidly. In 2019, Google announced plans to build an 8 million-square-foot park near San Jose that will hold 20,000 employees, less than 15 miles from Google’s Mountain View headquarters. Then Google announced a $1 billion investment to help solve San Francisco’s housing crisis.