LEAKED MEMO: Alphabet's healthcare unit Verily suspended bonuses mid-pandemic to fund diversity programs instead, frustrating employees (GOOG, GOOGL)


LEAKED MEMO: Alphabet s healthcare unit Verily suspended bonuses mid-pandemic to fund diversity programs instead, frustrating employees (GOOG, GOOGL)

  • Google sister company Verily Life Sciences has suspended employee spot bonuses for the remainder of 2020. It says it will redirect the money into diversity and inclusion programs instead.
  • Employees aren't happy about it. In an internal letter sent to management, viewed by Business Insider, employees are calling on leadership to reinstate spot bonuses and subsidize diversity efforts by other means.
  • The decision "implies that these efforts are charity causes not worthy of their own investment," employees wrote.
  • Employees told Business Insider the decision is "demotivating" at a time where they are working around the clock on Verily's COVID-19 screening and testing efforts.
  • Do you work at Verily? Contact reporter Hugh Langley using Signal or secure email (+1 628-228-1836 / [email protected]).
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Google sister company Verily Life Sciences has told employees it is suspending spot bonuses through 2020 and will redirect the money to diversity and inclusion programs.

Verily employees were told last week that the spot bonus money would instead be used to subsidize the company's internal product inclusion group as well as other social justice programs including clinical trial recruitment of underrepresented populations, according to internal documents viewed by Business Insider.

Employees at the healthcare company are frustrated by the decision, according to an internal memo. Some employees also said it devalued their colleagues' hard work and long hours during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, they said redirecting funds from bonuses sent the message that diversity programs were low priorities to Verily not worth their own budgets. 

Staffers in Verily's division in charge of screening and testing for COVID-19, Project Baseline, have written to management asking for spot bonuses to be reinstated. "These programs should be invested in their own right given our strong financial position," reads the letter. Employees have asked Verily's leadership to provide company milestones for all of its diversity and inclusion efforts and to fund them through traditional company funding sources.

"The use of spot bonuses to subsidize social justice programs such as [email protected] for HBCUs [Historically Black colleges and universities], clinical trial recruitment of underrepresented populations, and an internal Product Inclusion group implies that these efforts are charity causes not worthy of their own investment," the letter wrote.

The letter also called on the company to create a board of executives and employees "that define success and measure progress against all diversity, inclusion, and social justice goals."

Verily spokesperson Carolyn Wang confirmed that the bonuses had been cut. "One of our company values is 'Do More Good' and we're constantly looking for ways to put this into action and to be responsive to the broader environment around us," she wrote in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

"At this time, we think it's important we put our money where our mouth is, and direct some of our discretionary funds — such as those typically used to fund a spot bonus program (which is separate and distinct of our annual bonus program) — to bolster our efforts to ensure our products and services are accessible to the people who need them. This requires making a few small sacrifices, but why wouldn't we do that?"

'Very demotivating'

Verily, which was formerly known as Google Life Sciences and now lives under Google's parent company, Alphabet, launched its COVID-19 screening and testing website back in March. It has since continued to grow the number of testing facilities across the US, and more recently announced the launch of a research study to determine the accuracy of antibody tests.

The unrest illustrates the fierce toll current events are taking on the company, as it scrambles to respond to a worsening pandemic while also managing a new reckoning on racism in the workplace. 

Several current employees, who spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, said that the news of spot bonuses had irked a lot of people inside the company. Many employees are currently working very long hours as Verily continues to scale its COVID-19 projects, they said.

One current employee described the removal of spot bonuses as "very demotivating" and said there were now much higher expectations of employees since the company focused its work on the pandemic. "If you're not working on the weekend, you're seen as slacking off," they said. "There are people working seven-day weeks and trying to avoid burnout."

This was also alluded to in the letter sent to management by employees: "Verily taking away employee spot bonuses after what many consider to be the most grueling and difficult time of our careers show a lack of recognition." Verily's CEO Andrew Conrad is meeting with the Baseline team on Wednesday to discuss issues, one source said.

In a company-wide email in late June peppered with song lyrics, a departing senior counsel on the team also referenced the intense workload faced by the team.

"Although things are looking a little like a Ghost Town right now and it may simultaneously feel like A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall and that the Beds are Burning, I know that you Will Survive like the Dragonslayers that you are!" she wrote. "Although you Didn't Start The Fire, keep showing up, being Brave, and Dreaming the Impossible Dream."

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Tags: Google, US, Trends, Alphabet, Business Insider, Google Life Sciences, Andrew Conrad, Business Insider Employees, Verily Life Sciences, COVID, Carolyn Wang, Hugh Langley

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