Bill Ackman thinks American engineers are too lazy and startups should recruit workers from Ukraine instead

May 10, 2022, 5:53 PM UTC

The tech industry in the U.S. seems to be cooling off after leading a multiyear bull run during the pandemic, with millions of people transitioning to more virtual lives.

But Bill Ackman, founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, has come up with a way to inject the sector with new energy: hire developers from Ukraine as Russia’s invasion continues

The billionaire hedge fund mogul thinks American engineers don’t work as hard.

“Tonight I had dinner with 15 startup CEOs who bemoaned the work ethic of young US engineers, particularly compared with those from emerging countries. Idea: recruit engineers from @Ukraine. They are extremely talented, hard working and grateful, and you will be doing good,” Ackman tweeted Monday night.

These 15 CEOs could simply be responding to the conditions of a historically tight labor market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report, the U.S. added 428,000 jobs in April, with unemployment holding steady at 3.6%. Corporate America is still struggling to find the right talent.

Amid the so-called Great Resignation, workers have been able to leverage the demand for labor to push for better pay and benefits, or else jump between companies more easily than in the past.

The hiring worm turns for tech firms

Tech companies have scrambled to meet the demand. At a Google town hall earlier this year, employees questioned executive leadership about the “Googlegeist,” an annual survey that collects data on employee satisfaction. The results showed that employees were unhappy with compensation and the performance review process. 

Google workers directly called out other companies’ responses to the labor market in the town hall, citing Amazon’s decision to raise its maximum base salary to $350,000 to attract and retain workers and Apple’s move to issue restricted stock unit (RSU) bonuses. CEO Sundar Pichai soon afterward changed the biannual review process to just once a year, although he didn’t budge on his firm orders to have workers back three days a week in offices.

Ackman clarified his position in a follow-up tweet: “To be clear, I recommend hiring Ukrainian engineers virtually, not recruiting them to the US, which takes time and will drain talent from @Ukraine. We should find Ukrainians work and dignity now so they can provide for their families and country.”

The call for investment in Ukraine coincides with other calls on businesses to cease their engagements in Russia.

But rather than hire new workers, tech companies appear to be slowing down recruitment after a market downturn resulted in a cumulative loss of $17 billion in the first months of 2022.

Over the weekend, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told employees that the company needs to react to a “seismic shift” in the market, vowing to cut costs and “treat hiring as a privilege.” 

Meta has slowed down hiring over the past several weeks for mid-level and senior roles, while Netflix has drawn negative attention for its decision to lay off dozens of employees following a drastic drop in stock price and report that the company lost 200,000 subscribers in its first quarter. Robinhood announced it would be laying off 9% of its workforce, which exploded during the pandemic. Ackman purchased $1.1 billion in Netflix stock when prices dropped in January. He abandoned those shares three months later, losing $430 million.

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