I recently read a Wall Street Journal article about Google’s human resource philosophy as espoused by Laszlo Bock, head of HR where human resources is referred to as “people operations.” Over Mr. Bock’s tenure Google’s employee base has grown from 3,000 to 53,000. The article gives voice to the lessons he’s learned along the way.
“Honestly, Work Just Sucks for Too Many People”
There’s a sense in the prevailing market that “I just have to do my mindless job.” However,Bock doesn’t believe it has to be that way. The Google way is grounded in the following principles of making work better:
- Effective goal setting
- Frequent performance reviews
- Less middle management
Less hierarchy is particularly important as Google believes that this encourages employees to solve problems for themselves. Emphasis is also placed upon encouraging frequent assessments of employee performance – as well as that of their bosses. This flat organizational structure is predicated upon being able to hire the “right” people regardless of their background. Mr. Bock states that the right people generally possess the following characteristics; smart, conscientious and humble. Of course, Google has significant advantages in attracting talent that may or may not be applicable at your company. And Google can be choosy. He indicates that the company hires fewer than 1 in 200 people who apply for open positions!
When hiring, Google employs a hiring-by-committee approach. Whereby each interviewer asks a candidate questions derived from a standardized list. Follow-on interviewers must ask the same questions, for easy comparison, and to eliminate interviewer bias.
Once hired and productive the company’s emphasis shifts to keeping employees happy at work through “people analytics.” This term refers to data gleaned from management experiments that the company conducts. Some of these practices are immediately noticeable such as free food and few middle managers. Other data-derived practices such as increased pay for maternity leave and the resulting 50% decline in new mother attrition are less visible but no less meaningful.
It Remains to Be Seen if These Hiring Practices Are Scalable
Not all organizations can be as selective. So it remains to be seen how scalable Google’s hiring practices truly are. However, Bock points to other organizations that have come to similar conclusions about hiring practices, notably, Costco and Wegman’s. Mr. Bock believes that while wages are important the act of giving employees freedom to act on their own makes them more likely to behave as an “owner” taking responsibility to the next level across every part of the business.
Google’s resources make it possible to do a wide variety of things to improve employee hiring practices and retention. Would these practices be applicable at your organization?
Source: The Wall Street Journal, At Google, the Science of Working Better, Christopher Mims, March 30, 2015
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