Trust on the Line—Examining the Fallout of Big Tech’s Layoff

By Saurabh Sardana, Urooj Insights, powered by PureSpectrum

Image by LookerStudio from Shutterstock

In the last decade, top technology firms became heroes and the focus of aspirations for millions seeking employment. With free food, social events, and employee-friendly policies, big tech companies built strong cultures. But with the recent spate of layoffs, has that trust been seriously dented? Are we entering a new era where the allure of big tech is no longer so charming?

To explore the state of trust between people and big tech, we conducted syndicated research across five major cities in Asia. This pulse-check examines where people and big tech stand today in their relationship—and what the future may hold.

Research Intent

Organizations regularly assess employee satisfaction to understand workforce sentiments. Unfortunately, there is limited research on the aftermath of layoffs and how it impacts both those currently employed, and those directly affected by layoffs. This study is timely as it explores the feelings of thousands exposed to such news through their networks and peers.

About the Study

This study included over 1000+ participants across five locations: Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Sydney, Mumbai and Delhi. Two hundred people were surveyed in each city, except for Mumbai and Delhi, where 100 participants were surveyed in each. The study was designed with balanced scales to ensure an unbiased assessment of reactions and opinions towards ongoing layoffs. It achieved representation across various demographic factors, including age groups, seniority levels, and industries/sectors. Therefore, the research was expanded to include other sectors as well.

Overview

As we write this paper, Cisco has made headlines by announcing thousands more job cuts. This adds to the 230,000+ tech workers already impacted by unprecedented layoffs since January 2023. And remember, these are just the numbers reported in the media—the situation on the ground could be even worse.

Now, this is not a unique event. It has happened in the past. After the 2008 global financial crisis, millions of workers lost their jobs. However, this is the first such event in the age of social media, where people are more connected to information and news, and sentiments form very quickly.

For many, the increasing number of layoffs may result in a loss of trust in tech giants that were once seen as prestigious, purpose-driven, and offering limitless perks. But is this disillusionment as common as the alarming headlines suggest? The findings below measure these changes in appeal and favourability across five major hubs in the Asia-Pacific.

#1 – Impact of Layoffs: Felt Far and Wide

Our study found that overall, 64% of respondents reported being personally impacted by tech layoffs, or they knew someone who was directly affected. This number was even higher in certain cities, such as Kuala Lumpur where 72% reported an impact, Mumbai & Delhi where 71% were affected, and Jakarta at 69%.

#2 – Tech Layoffs Trigger Doubts

Our study reveals a post-layoff landscape where doubts loom over big technology companies. Significantly, 36% of respondents expressed scepticism about the reliability of these firms, or no longer trust and respect them, casting shadows on the professional faith people once had in them. Meanwhile, 25% maintain a positive view, and 16% still hold them in awe, bringing the total positive ratings to 40%.

Interestingly, such scepticism is more pronounced among middle-level profiles compared to their senior and junior-level counterparts. When reading country-wise sentiments, it becomes evident that the highest degree of negative perception is notably concentrated in Sydney (48%) and Singapore (43%).

Layoffs stem from various factors, but a common majority perception of cause emerges—boosting already strong profitability, not recession fears, is the prime motivator.

#3 Tech Layoffs Impact Lives and Beyond

Navigating the aftermath poses a formidable challenge. Those directly affected, and those untouched, both grapple with intense emotions, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this job crisis, with most respondents feeling powerless and unsettled (23%), disheartened (20%), with others who are more accepting of such decisions feeling calm and at ease. A higher proportion of respondents in Singapore and Sydney felt crushed, reeling from the impact of layoffs.

#4 Future of Big Tech and Employees?

The tech layoff aftermath puts big tech’s relationship with employees in the spotlight. Sentiments surveyed show 50% with broken trust, feeling significant scepticism. 32% maintain cautious trust, and remain vigilant. Meanwhile 18% extend benefit of doubt, and are unwavering supporters. As observed before the broken trust and sceptical sentiment was more profound in Sydney (69%) & Singapore (51%).

To sum it up, our research shows that trust between big tech and employees took a sizeable hit during the layoffs last year. Fixing this trust will take time and hard work, with big tech reaching out to rebuild what’s been lost. It’s a challenge requiring thought and action to mend relationships in the tech world.

Conceptualized and created by Urooj Insights 

At Urooj Insights, we unlock opportunities for human-centred organizations through gaining strategic insights. As a leading insights and analytics firm, we conduct research on a global scale. We combine behavioural science and cultural storytelling to give a unique twist to raw information. This helps merge strategic narratives seamlessly with our findings, breaking down barriers and connecting our clients with the world around them.

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This article was first published in the Q1 2024 edition of Asia Research Media

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