BrandArena: Building A Human-centric Corporate Organisation: A Study of Google HR Approach

Monday 13 April 2020

Building A Human-centric Corporate Organisation: A Study of Google HR Approach

Google is an American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware.

Today, Google (as part of Alphabet Inc.) is one of the biggest and most valuable technology companies in the world. Human capital and its management have become more important than ever in the 21st century. However, very few are ‘good as Google’ at managing people. Google has proved that it relies on innovation in every aspect of its business, even HRM.

Google has established an employee-centered culture. Apart from Google’s technological capabilities, innovative and efficient HR is the reason that it has acquired as much success and fame. Several things are different about Google’s HR approach. The most outstanding thing about the tech giant is its mix of salaries and perks meant to keep its employees motivated and satisfied.

In Google’s early days, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin focused only on two things: creating a better way to find information on the internet, and making Google a great place to work. The starting point for engagement is making employees feel valued. Here are six HR principles of how Google shows its employees that they’re valued:

1. Inspire People
Google’s approach to employee motivation is its “20 Percent” Rule: Employees spend up to 20% of their time at work every week on projects that inspire them. With their 20% time, Google employees created Gmail, Google News, AdSense, and many other highly profitable products. A perk like 20% time inspires employees because it allows them to focus on things they’re passionate about. That inspiration prevents burnout and increases engagement.

2. Support Flexibility
Another way to increase motivation is increasing flexibility in work schedules. Some of Google’s more exotic benefits – like bowling alleys, massages, gaming rooms, and pools – aren’t necessarily designed for after-work use. Googlers enjoy those amenities any time they want – even in the middle of the workday. While most Googlers work some version of a fixed week schedule, they can vary it up whenever they need to. According to Prasad Setty, VP of People Operations at Google, one of the company’s core tenants is “if you give people freedom, they will amaze you.”

3. Promote Diversity
In 2015, Google created “Diversity Core” – a program that allows employees to allocate their time to diversity projects and initiatives. Employees who participate in Diversity Core work on projects that raise the visibility of women in technology jobs and encourage more Hispanics to apply to work at Google, among many others. Google locations in the U.S. started to employ more female employees, more Asians, and more Hispanics over the last years.

4. Listen, Respond, and Adapt
Google collects feedback from its employees. Employees use a tool called Google Moderator—another outcome of 20% time—to ask questions and vote on others’ questions they want to be answered. Every Friday, the company holds an all-hands meeting where company leaders respond to the most popular questions of the week. Also, leaders use a charting tool called Google-O-Meter to measure the popularity of different employee suggestions. There are plenty of ways for HR teams to solicit employee feedback: engagement surveys, pulse surveys, anonymous forms, or even just a basic pen-and-paper suggestion box.

5. Encourage Development
Google has created a work environment that fosters continuous learning. The company has special training programs related to presentation skills, content development, management, and leadership. Free classes in foreign language and culture are also provided to Google employees. Learning and development receive special attention at Google whose learning and development team has continued to expand. This team works on leadership programs for developing future leaders for Google. 120 hours of training and development every year is mandatory for all Google employees. This is triple the industry average.

6. Create a Culture of Empathy
Google learned during the company’s quest to determine the composition of the perfect team (Project Aristotle), that the perfect team had nothing to do with any qualities of the people on that team. The statisticians couldn’t find patterns. The company observed high- and low-performing teams to look for consistencies in how the teams interacted and ran meetings. They discovered that members of the highest-performing teams felt safe speaking up and sharing their ideas. Great teams trust and respect each other, providing all members with not only a voice but also the confidence to share that voice with others.

Learning from Google
If you’re part of an HR team at a small or medium-sized business that’s looking for ways to boost engagement, discover new ideas and exciting opportunities by learning more about the employee engagement practices at Google: there are plenty of ways to support flexibility at your company. Allow employees to work from home when needed, adopt flex schedules, or increase the amount of personal time employees get each year.

When experimenting, Google recommends that you “treat HR interventions like a medical researcher treats a drug trial: have a treatment group and an equivalent control group, hypotheses, a data collection period, an analysis comparing groups, and quantifiable outcomes.” It is very important to test the changes first and measure the outcomes. It’s a lot of work, but the engagement benefits will make the hard work well worth it in the end.

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