Inside a brutal week of layoffs at Alerzo
Poor performance or digitalisation?
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Inside a brutal week of layoffs
“They are firing people daily. I’m going crazy,” is the message *Joy (real name withheld) shares with her cousin as she resumes work on a Friday. “I need another job,” her follow-up message adds. Joy is referring to the mass layoffs happening at the retail-focused startup, Alerzo. Over the last two weeks, more than six people with knowledge of Alerzo’s business spoke to me for this article. All of them spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals and described an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty as the startup continues mass layoffs.
Several employees told me that over 200 people have now been fired since May 2022, with the newest round of layoffs happening last week. “Over 100 people were fired in May. Most of those who were affected were ground level officers like logistics and loading officers who work Monday to Saturday from 7 am to 7 pm to ensure they meet targets,” one current employee told me. “At that time, they were fired for performance reasons.”
All Alerzo employees who spoke to me say that these layoffs for performance were excuses for a company that sometimes overestimates the number of workers it needs. One person told me, “At Alerzo, hiring happens every time we expand. But when we expand and there is low demand, the newly hired staff are then at risk. So if we expand to the South-South and hire a bunch of staff but business demand is low, they’ll get laid off even if it’s not the fault of the staff.”
Another person with knowledge of Alerzo’s business corroborated this version of events. According to her, “The company had mass recruitment last year, so the number of roles was increased. For instance, verification officers were increased from 50 to 100 in under a week. Some of the new staff were later fired for non-performance, but were later rehired when business improved.”
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Poor performance or digitalization?
Alerzo started its second round of layoffs in August. Several sources told me that the affected staff were called to the HR office, and asked to hand in company-issued gadgets before they were given a “Service No longer Required” letter. Most of the dismissal letters read, “This decision was taken based on your performance and general contribution on the job to the growth of the business in the past few months, which has not been satisfactory.”
One person close to the situation told me, “There was no proof to support this claim of poor performance and no performance appraisals or KPI reviews were done prior to dismissal. Some of the people who were dismissed were the hardest working in their units.” Another source shared email responses from members of staff who were laid off. Many of those email responses called the dismissals unfair and asked HR to show proof of nonperformance.
On Sunday, a report in this newsletter forced a response from Alerzo’s management. Despite earlier citing performance reasons for firing people, Alerzo’s management said in a company-wide email this week that the layoffs were caused by digitalization. Part of the email from the CEO read, “I want to address concerns you may have about layoffs and be transparent about the internal process that was conducted. As you know, we have invested a tremendous amount in technology tools to improve our operations, especially in fulfilment and our warehouses. Due to this increased digitization, some roles that were previously required no longer are necessary, specifically for our internal warehouse operations.”
Alerzo is continuing layoffs
After this week’s email from the CEO, five people at Alerzo told me that layoffs are still continuing. “The issue is affecting me mentally,” one person told me, while another person said there’s a lot of fear and anxiety among staff at the moment. “Some staff that resigned in an effort to save their career outlook were still handed termination letters this week. Those left behind are currently demotivated. The layoff process has taken well over a week and is still ongoing at random; it is mentally depressing and many more may suffer.”
This week’s layoffs have affected people in several roles. Some QHSE officers, salespeople, accountants, invoice handlers, and customer service supervisors, have now been laid off. One Alerzo employee told me, “a sales Representative was laid off in May at a South-West warehouse but was recalled to resume at a warehouse in the North by June. She's been laid off again this August in Ilorin. This is after she's gotten an apartment in the Northern warehouse. Now, she's stranded. Not only her but a large chunk of staff. Some of those who were laid off resumed barely a month or two, for some, weeks.”
Several ex-employees shared that despite their employment being fully confirmed in April, they have now been laid off and paid only their salaries for the month of August. The anger from ex-employees stems from how the layoffs were done and how their performances were suddenly unsatisfactory without proof. A few of the ex-employees told me they may consider legal action.
On Glassdoor, a website that allows employees anonymously review companies, Alerzo’s reputation is taking a beating. With a 3.7-star rating, many of the new reviews allude to the company’s culture of terminating contracts abruptly and the long hours most roles require. At the time of this report, Alerzo did not respond to multiple requests for comments on this story.
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See you on Sunday!