Google executives are launching a company-wide efficiency campaign to make its digital advertising and cloud computing businesses 20% more productive. Speaking at the Code Conference in Los Angeles, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet, pointed to economic storms on the horizon, reports The Register.

“The more we try to understand the macroeconomic, we feel very uncertain about it,” he said. “The macroeconomic performance is correlated to ad spend, consumer spend and so on.”

Google’s management intends to use internal levers to adjust the business and make it leaner and perhaps work more coherently, trying to insulate against uncertainty. Pichai acknowledged that Google is moving “slower” after hiring thousands of people during the pandemic. Google’s workforce was 118,988 in 2019, grew to 156,500 in 2021, and currently stands at 174,000.

Google, like many other tech companies, has slowed hiring since July, and last month called on staff to generate ideas to improve productivity as part of the Simplicity Sprint initiative. Pichai said at the time that he was concerned, given the size of the staff, “our performance overall is not what it should be”.

This came after the company’s second-calendar-year profit was 13% higher than a year earlier and amounted to $69.69 billion, slightly below the consolidated estimates of analysts and indicating some slowdown in growth compared to previous quarters.

Speaking at the Code Conference, Pichai said it’s critical that Google managers prioritize working on the right things and that their employees are really productive “so they can have an impact on what they’re working on.”

“Across everything we do, we can be slower to make decisions,” Pichai said. “You look at it end-to-end and figure out how to make the company 20% more productive”.

He added: “Sometimes there are areas to make progress [where] you have three people making decisions, understanding that and bringing it down to two or one improves efficiency by 20%.”

According to an insider report, the CEO told employees at a monthly general meeting last week that he intends to “simplify” the organization.

“I see so many opportunities ahead, and I think we can continue scaling and driving massive impact,” Pichai continued to muse. “But to do that, we need to simplify the company and manage the complexity as we scale”

Among the ideas being considered are cutting the list of “goals and key results” for staff by a third in 2023 and scrapping unnecessary meetings. Undoubtedly, merging some of the development teams or changing the level of management to reduce red tape could also help.

Pichai said he received 6,000 responses from employees as part of the Simplicity Sprint initiative, and the most “impressive” feedback was about Google’s internal tools and how they engage employees at work.