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Grammarly adopts a fire & hire people strategy for an “AI-focused future”

Grammarly adopts a fire & hire people strategy for an “AI-focused future”

Written by:
Gregor Towers
Date created
February 14, 2024
Last updated:
April 12, 2024
5 min read
Grammarly lay offs for an AI-focused future
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Key takeaways

• Layoffs in the tech industry are increasingly linked to uncertainty about the future of work and the need to reskill employees for AI-focused roles.

• Grammarly's recent layoffs reflect a shift towards AI-based skills and a restructuring of their workforce to align with their new business strategy.

• While firing and hiring may address immediate skill gaps, long-term talent strategies are needed to prepare for AI integration without sacrificing employees.

• Companies need to invest in upskilling solutions, analyze skill gaps, and provide continuous training to protect their workforce and ensure future success.

• Anticipating the future of work requires a focus on developing people's skills alongside business development, rather than reactive fire and hire strategies.

Layoffs aren’t new to the tech industry. However, in 2024, firing has become a symptom of a deeper problem - ambiguity on the future of work. 

Companies and their leaders may know how to fire and hire, but they don't know how to anticipate the future of work and reskill their people to protect careers. Grammarly is now the latest example. 

On Feb 7th, despite financial stability, the AI-based writing assistant laid off 230 people to prepare for an AI-focused future. 

Today, I announced the difficult decision to lay off part of our global team as we restructure for continued success in the future…This is not a cost cutting exercise. Grammarly’s financial position is, and remains, strong. CEO, Rahul Roy-Chowdhury

As their business strategy changes, Grammarly is firing people unsuited to the future and hiring new talent with AI-based skills. However, is this really the best people strategy to prepare for AI? 

It seems that while tech companies know where to shift their business models for the future of work, their people are being left behind. 

Which people did Grammarly lay off and who are they hiring? 

Grammarly cut people’s contracts for Head of Brand Design, Head of Human Insights and software engineers. Perhaps this implies that Grammarly will leverage AI to auto-generate brand visuals, people analytics and coding? 

Unlike most tech layoffs, Grammarly continues to hire new talent, with a focus on AI Security Researchers, Advanced Language Scientists and Machine Learning Engineers. These talent profiles support the company’s vision to develop a more advanced language model that improves customers’ communication and productivity. 

While it makes sense to hire this talent from the market now, surely this people strategy could have been avoided? Especially with 37 people losing their jobs in Kyiv, Ukraine, it’s a sensitive and controversial decision that’s likely to damage the companies’ employer branding.

Recruitment is also a questionable solution to plug AI skill gaps. It’s expensive, disruptive to teams and risky - there’s no guarantee that AI-skilled talent is available in the labor market. 

What are the alternative people strategies for AI integration?

Fire and hire may work as a quick solution, but long-term talent strategies can help companies prepare for AI - without losing their people. The sooner leaders identify and bridge skills gaps, the more they can protect resources and above all, people’s careers and wellbeing. 

However, this demands a transformation in upskilling solutions. Learning teams will need a deeper understanding of the business direction, better tools to analyze skill gaps, detailed planning for people’s careers and provide continuous skills practice to prepare their talent for the future of work. 

Businesses need leaders who anticipate the future of work

Grammarly’s lay offs are just the beginning of the AI aftermath. More AI layoffs will follow as leaders make a conscious decision to prioritize technology and deal with the impact on people afterwards.

Yet the enterprises anticipating the future of work will recognize that people and business development are inseparable. They won’t be reactive with fire and hire strategies, but place people’s skills at the center of long-term progress, innovation and companies’ DNA. 

There’ll still be a need to hire from the market, but recruitment alone is a risky strategy. In 2024 we expect learning teams to look at what the future means for their people and build skills-based organizations that support teams with continuous upskilling. 

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