20231902 meta
Image Credit: AFP

Facebook parent company Meta began handing out a new round of pink slips Wednesday, part of a months-long downsizing and restructuring effort that will trim 10,000 employees amid multiple waves of layoffs.

Employees on the company's technical teams were notified early Wednesday morning that their jobs were being cut, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

One internal analysis estimated that the company could shed 4,000 workers in Wednesday's layoff, according to a different person familiar with the matter. Meta also is to announce reorganized teams and management hierarchies as the social media giant seeks to become leaner and more efficient in the face of mounting business challenges and an expensive pivot to virtual reality.

One departing employee said the company sent messages to his work and personal email accounts just after 4 am. He was quickly cut off from internal communication tools, allowing just a few minutes to post goodbyes to his former colleagues.

"Sadly, I've been looking casually for the last [2 to 3] months because I never felt safe at Meta," he said. "The pay makes it hard to leave."

Early Wednesday, Meta's internal communication platforms were peppered with goodbye messages from departing colleagues, according to one of the people.

"With the way morale is trending there, Meta is probably making more and more of their employees feel like mercenaries," he added.

Since March, workers have been braced for a layoff targeting highly skilled employees such as engineers and other technical staffers who help build the company's products, according to people familiar with the matter. The cuts are a rare moment of vulnerability for Meta's engineers, who - amid stiff competition for talent in Silicon Valley - have long enjoyed job security, high salaries, autonomy and freedom to work on their desired projects.

The workforce reductions at Meta are part of a larger wave of layoffs by internet platforms, which are experiencing severe threats to their business models. Meta is facing intensifying competition for advertising dollars and users from the short-form video network TikTok. New privacy rules adopted by Apple hurt Meta's ability to offer targeted advertising. Meanwhile, some digital advertisers have reduced their spending amid rising inflation and the slowing demand in the e-commerce market.

Meta's head of human resources, Lori Goler, told employees Tuesday evening that those whose jobs were being cut would be notified the following morning, according to an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post. The affected divisions include teams working on Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and the virtual-reality division Reality Labs, according to Goler. She advised some employees to not go to their offices if personal attendance was not critical for their roles, according to the memo. Layoff decisions were made by senior leaders as part of the wider restructuring effort, Goler added.

"This will be a difficult time as we say goodbye to friends and colleagues who have contributed so much to Meta," she wrote. "It will take time for everyone - both those leaving and those staying - to process tomorrow's news, and I know teams will show up for each other with compassion, support and care."

Within an hour, thousands of employees Tuesday evening commented or reacted to Goler's note on an internal forum. Many workers posted saluting and crying face emoji, according to people familiar with the matter.

Meta spokesman Dave Arnold confirmed the memo was sent but declined to comment.

Employees who are affected will be notified Wednesday morning, Goler wrote, although she added that the process may differ for workers outside North America. Meta leaders on Wednesday are also expected to reveal how their divisions may be reorganized after the layoffs. The company will tell employees if they are getting new managers, according to the memo.

Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said last month that the company would announce layoffs and a restructuring of technical teams in late April, with cuts to supporting business roles coming in late May. Zuckerberg at the time did not specify how many workers would be cut in each round.

In total, Meta expects to cut around 10,000 jobs and will not fill 5,000 previously expected job openings. In March, Zuckerberg implied that the cuts would disproportionately affect business support staffers, arguing that the rebalancing would create an "optimal ratio of engineers to other roles" to ensure "our company remains primarily technologists."

The latest layoffs build on the slashing in November of 11,000 jobs, or about 13 percent of Meta's workforce, in the first widespread layoffs in the company's history.

As in November, employees who were laid off were given 16 weeks severance with additional funds according to seniority, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The job cuts have caused anxiety in Meta's workforce, causing many to question the leadership and direction of the company in recent months, The Washington Post previously reported. Some remaining employees say they are searching for new jobs, while others are concerned about how their jobs may change in the future.

In the face of those challenges, Zuckerberg has said one of the company's top priorities is to become leaner and more efficient. Top executives along with people in the human resources, legal and finance departments have been asked to redraw the organizational charts at Meta, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on internal matters. In addition to the cuts, the company is deflating its hierarchy to reduce the number of management layers between interns and Zuckerberg, and it is canceling lower-priority projects.

Despite its economic challenges, Meta - which changed its name from Facebook more than a year ago - says it is still pushing innovations. In February, Zuckerberg announced the creation of an internal working group designed to "turbocharge" the company's investment in generative artificial intelligence. The company also is pushing its short-form video product, Reels, to compete with TikTok and is exploring building another decentralized social media network that would compete with Twitter.

And Meta is still plowing money into its big bet to build out immersive digital realms known as the metaverse. Zuckerberg has said he thinks people will want to work, shop and socialize through augmented and virtual-reality-powered devices, which he has argued will become the next great computing platform.

But Meta has said it expects operating losses for Reality Labs, the division working on virtual-reality offerings. The company has struggled to amass an audience for virtual reality and has said much of the technology needed to power the metaverse will take years to build.