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"Why are Google employees so happy?" Laszlo Bock, Google's innovative Senior Vice President of People Operations, offers his best answers to this and more puzzling questions in his book Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead.
Bock shares valuable insights and experiences from 15 years as a leader of Google's strategy to attract, develop and retain the world's top talent.
He credits Google's distinctive management philosophies and its unique approaches to people, culture, talent and leadership as the reason why Google is recognized as the most sought-after place to work on the planet.
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What are some ways to foster a sense of liberty among employees?View answer
One way to foster a sense of liberty among employees is to create a culture of high freedom, which values liberty, authority, and ownership. This can be achieved by treating employees with respect and giving them freedom and empowerment in the business. Another way is to help employees see the meaning in their work and show them how it contributes to a greater good or benefits others. This can inspire them to innovate and push beyond their limits.
How does a high-freedom culture impact employee retention?View answer
A high-freedom culture can significantly impact employee retention in a positive way. When employees are given the liberty, authority, and ownership in their roles, they feel valued and trusted. This can lead to increased job satisfaction, motivation, and commitment to the organization, which in turn can reduce turnover rates. Employees in a high-freedom culture are also likely to feel more empowered and engaged in their work, which can further enhance their job performance and loyalty to the company.
What are some ways to foster a sense of authority among employees?View answer
There are several ways to foster a sense of authority among employees. Firstly, create a culture of high freedom, which values liberty, authority, and ownership. This can be achieved by believing in the fundamental goodness of people and treating them accordingly. Secondly, empower your employees by giving them freedom in the business. This will make them feel happy about their work. Lastly, help your employees see the meaning in their work. Show them how their work contributes to a greater good or benefits others. This will inspire them to innovate and push beyond their limits.
Work Rules! is a detailed playbook for leaders who strive to emulate Google's people success in their own teams and organizations. This manifesto of simple truths offers transformative guidance to leaders who want to improve teams from the inside out instead of top down. That will not happen by institutionalizing some complex quality or productivity improvement methodology such as Six Sigma or Total Quality Management. This is about human beings and how we treat one another. Everything that has made Google wildly successful in the past 22 years is rooted in the fundamental belief that people are good and can be trusted. This is what has enabled Google to design a workplace where Googlers feel free, fulfilled, happy and able to efficiently manage both their personal and work lives. It doesn't get any more complicated than that.
What are some ways that Google's approach to people management has been revolutionary?View answer
Google's approach to people management has been revolutionary in several ways. Firstly, it is rooted in the fundamental belief that people are good and can be trusted. This has enabled Google to design a workplace where employees feel free, fulfilled, and happy. They are able to efficiently manage both their personal and work lives. Secondly, Google's approach is about improving teams from the inside out, not top down. It does not rely on complex quality or productivity improvement methodologies such as Six Sigma or Total Quality Management. Instead, it focuses on how human beings treat one another.
What are some ways that Google's approach to people management has been effective?View answer
Google's approach to people management has been effective in several ways. Firstly, they have a fundamental belief that people are good and can be trusted. This has allowed them to create a workplace where employees feel free, fulfilled, and happy. They are able to efficiently manage both their personal and work lives. Secondly, Google's approach is not about institutionalizing complex quality or productivity improvement methodologies. Instead, it's about improving teams from the inside out, focusing on how human beings treat one another. This simple yet transformative approach has contributed to Google's success over the past 22 years.
What are some ways that Google's approach to people management has been impactful?View answer
Google's approach to people management has been impactful in several ways. Firstly, it is rooted in the fundamental belief that people are good and can be trusted. This has enabled Google to design a workplace where employees feel free, fulfilled, and happy. They are able to efficiently manage both their personal and work lives. Secondly, Google's approach is transformative and focuses on improving teams from the inside out, rather than top-down. It does not rely on complex quality or productivity improvement methodologies, but rather on how human beings are treated. This simple yet effective approach has contributed significantly to Google's success over the past 22 years.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin knew exactly the kind of company they wanted to create when they started Google 22 years ago. The founders have always been humble and generous people who believe that the value and success Google and its employees create together should be shared fairly. Yes, it is true, you can earn or be awarded large sums of money at Google.
How does Google's philosophy of sharing success contribute to its overall business success?View answer
Google's philosophy of sharing success contributes to its overall business success by fostering a culture of fairness and generosity. This approach motivates employees to work harder and innovate more, as they know that their efforts will be recognized and rewarded. This, in turn, leads to the creation of more value and success for the company.
What are some of the ways Google's approach to employee compensation sets it apart from other companies?View answer
Google's approach to employee compensation is unique in that it believes in sharing the value and success that the company and its employees create together. This can result in employees earning or being awarded large sums of money. This approach is reflective of the company's founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who are known for their humility and generosity.
How does Google's approach to employee compensation impact its competitive position in the tech industry?View answer
Google's approach to employee compensation, which is generous and fair, significantly enhances its competitive position in the tech industry. By offering large sums of money, Google is able to attract and retain top talent, which in turn drives innovation and success for the company.
Page and Brin's founding philosophies have stood the test of time as Google has grown to 50,000 strong in 70 countries. During Bock's 15-year tenure, Google was named the number one employer more than a hundred times in the U.S. and 16 other countries, the top diversity employer, the best company for women in technology and honored with a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign.
What are some of the key factors that have contributed to Google's success in the tech industry?View answer
Some key factors that have contributed to Google's success in the tech industry include its strong founding philosophies, its growth to a large global workforce, its reputation as a top employer, its commitment to diversity, and its recognition for being a great company for women in technology and for its human rights practices.
How has Google's approach to people operations impacted its global expansion?View answer
Google's approach to people operations has significantly impacted its global expansion. The company's founding philosophies have allowed it to grow to 50,000 employees in 70 countries. During Bock's 15-year tenure, Google was named the number one employer more than a hundred times in the U.S. and 16 other countries, the top diversity employer, the best company for women in technology and honored with a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign. These recognitions reflect Google's commitment to its employees, diversity, and inclusion, which have been key factors in its successful global expansion.
What are some of the key strategies that Google uses to retain its top talent?View answer
Google uses several strategies to retain its top talent. These include creating a diverse and inclusive work environment, providing opportunities for career growth and development, offering competitive compensation and benefits, and fostering a culture of innovation and creativity. Google also places a high emphasis on employee well-being and work-life balance, and has been recognized for its efforts in these areas by various organizations.
Bock admits Google has made plenty of mistakes along the way, but that its failures and lessons learned have helped it grow even stronger as a fair, just and happy culture. Bock is convinced that any team can be built around the very same principles Google has used and offers actionable advice so leaders can do just that. He cites impactful data, industry examples and research discoveries about human nature as he nutshells the valuable lessons that continue to shape Google's culture.
Hire the best talent upfront
If you are committed to transforming your team, hiring better is the single best way to do it, according to Bock. Google's greatest growth constraint through the years has consistently been the ability to find great people. Google front-loads its people investment and spends most of its time attracting, assessing and cultivating new hires. Google invests more than twice in recruiting, as a percentage of its people budget, than the average company spends. Bock knows from experience how difficult it is to take an average performer and through training make them a star. Yet the massive training budgets of most companies are evidence that Bock's belief is not widely shared.
Google hires more slowly to find the best people up front who will be successful in the context of Google's business and inspire success in those around them. The way Bock sees it, if you get the best up front, there is less work you need to do with them when they hire in. Plus, you can reallocate all those training dollars to support hiring.
Bock acknowledges that Google could certainly hire people in the traditional week or two instead of the six weeks it takes to hire into Google. He confirms the company can certainly move faster when needed, and occasionally must expedite the process for candidates with offers from other companies that will expire if the candidate does not respond quickly. Google is constantly working to balance its speed, error rate and experience for candidates and Googlers.
The major benefit to hiring the best people up front is this: In most organizations, you join and then must prove yourself. At Google, there is such confidence in the hiring process that new people join and on their first day they are trusted and full members of their teams.
Set the inmates free to run the asylum
It is easy to tell a team what to do and then make sure they deliver. But it is exponentially harder to build a high-freedom work environment because everything about today's traditional management power dynamic pulls against freedom. This is a significant root cause of the unhappiness and disengagement in today's workforce. Unfortunately, many organizations are low-freedom workplaces, hard-wired to mistrust and operate with a command-and-control management philosophy. Both high- and low-freedom companies can operate profitably, but the most talented people crave high freedom environments and will gravitate to the companies where they can do meaningful work and help shape the future of their company.
The way to balance individual freedom with overall direction is to be transparent. Employees need to understand the rationales behind each action that could be perceived as a slippery slope that collides with the company's values. The more central your values are to your culture and how you operate, the more you need to explain to employees.
Bock has seen transparency improve both individual and company performance at Google. He says that helping a struggling employee typically improves that person's performance to average levels. It may not sound like much but think of it this way: out of a group of a 100 people, Jim was one of the five worst performers. After intervention, Jim became the fiftieth-best performer. Not a model employee, but Jim was now better than 49 others, where previously he was only better than four. Imagine the possibilities if you could get all the company's worst performers to improve as much as Jim did. Better yet, what if the bottom 49 were still better than the competition?
The transparency of Google's culture also provides a natural avenue to improve the company's performance. Google uses a powerful technique commonly used by technology firms called "dogfooding," where Googlers are the first real users to try new products (such as Google Glass and self-driving cars) to provide open feedback on practical daily use so teams can refine the products further before going to market. The term "dogfooding" originates with the makers of Kal Kan pet foods, who literally used to eat their own dog food.
Transparency also helps with the softer side of things by curbing conflict, internal rivalry, politicking and "backstabbing." If you write a nasty email about someone at Google, you should not be surprised to see that person added to the email thread. Bock recalls the first time he ever complained about someone in an email and his manager promptly copied that person, forcing them to resolve the issue quickly.
Level the manager-employee playing field
Google is open about its deep skepticism of management. Not managers per se, but it is "profoundly suspicious of power, and the way managers have historically abused it. Google has found the sweet spot between every manager's susceptibility to the conveniences and small thrills of power and employees' inherent conditioning to create their own hierarchies, yield to authority or defer to a superior.
If you want a non-hierarchical environment, you need physical reminders of the company's values. Google wants its people to behave like owners in a non-hierarchical workplace, rather than employees, so it eliminates signifiers and symbols of hierarchy. For instance, the most senior executives receive the same benefits as its newest hires.
Google deliberately levels the playing field between managers and employees in many ways. Unlike most companies, Google has no executive dining rooms, parking spots or pensions, and it makes compensation programs available to all employees, not just senior executives.
Google also takes away the proverbial sticks and carrots that managers typically dangle in front of employees. There are many decisions Google managers cannot make:
Alternatively, each of these decisions is made by either a group of peers, a committee or a dedicated, independent team. Google believes the best way to see the heart of great management is to strip away all the tools on which managers most rely.
In closing, Bock imparts that "Google has a constant paranoia about losing the culture, and has a constant, creeping sense of dissatisfaction with the current culture." But he considers that a good thing and would be concerned if the company stopped worrying. The feeling of being on the brink of losing a great culture keeps everyone vigilant to protect it.
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