Data Insights for Tech Startups

What roles are most affected by layoffs?

December 19, 2023

In this edition of Pilot Insights, we take a look at startup layoffs.

Layoffs are tough, and they’ve become more commonplace in the past few years. But layoffs also rarely affect teams uniformly: some roles end up being more impacted than others.

Here’s what we found in our dataset:

In layoff data since July 2021, the most affected team was customer success, with teams 53% smaller post-layoffs than they were at their very peak. Next up was sales, with a 44% reduction in team size.

This makes sense. If the motivating factor behind a layoff is decreased revenue performance or higher churn, roles that are proportional to revenue—like customer success, sales, and marketing—are going to be most affected.

Who was hit least hard? Legal & Compliance, with only 14% of the team affected. This also makes sense: even in hard economic times, you can’t suddenly stop being compliant.

One surprise for me: how high the executive percentage is: 36%. Two factors might be at play: (1) there aren’t that many executives, so it only takes a small number being affected to materially move the percentage, and (2) if the company is underperforming, that underperformance should be attributed to the company’s management. So it makes sense that some of these executives end up being laid off.


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