Case Studies: Google 1CASE STUDY: GOOGLEGoogle is a very successful informationtechnology/web search company with more than 21,000employees working in 77 offices located in 43 countries. It wasfounded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. According tothe Google website, Google has grown by leaps and boundssince then. From offering search in a single language thecompany now offer dozens of products and services—including various forms of advertising and web applicationsfor all kinds of tasks—in scores of languages. In 2010, Google’srevenue exceeded 29 billion. Probably one of the moreinteresting statistics associated with Google is that it receiveswell over one million job applications each year and hires onlyabout .05 percent of them. This tells us two very importantthings about Google: lots of people want to work there andGoogle is very particular about who it hires. Google has madethe Fortune list of 100 Best Companies to Work For every yearsince 2007.Let’s take a look at how the leadership practices atGoogle match up with The Engagement Formula.THE ENGAGEMENT FORMULA AT GOOGLEStep One: Create a Full‐Engagement Culturethat Defines the Organization and DrivesPerformanceA full‐engagement culture has the following four elements:
Case Studies: Google 2Minimal Distractions—So Employees CanFocus on Performing Their JobsEmployees’ physiological and safety needs are verywell satisfied at Google. According to the Google web site, “Weprovide individually‐tailored compensation packages that canbe comprised of competitive salary, bonus, and equitycomponents, along with the opportunity to earn furtherfinancial bonuses and rewards.”1 CNNMoney recently quoted aGoogle spokesperson who said, “ we do believe thatcompetitive compensation plans are important to the future ofthe company,"2 In addition, the benefit package at Google isintentionally designed to remove as many day to daydistractions as possible for Google employees so they can focuson doing their best work. According to Executive ChairmanEric Schmidt, “The goal is to strip away everything that gets inour employees’ way. We provide a standard package of fringebenefits, but on top of that are first‐class dining facilities, gyms,laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts, carwashes, drycleaning, commuting buses – just about anything ahardworking employee might want. Let’s face it: programmerswant to program, they don’t want to do their laundry. So wemake it easy for them to do both.”3Google has the following benefits philosophy: “Westrive to be innovative and unique in all services we provideboth to customers and employees, including our benefits andperks offerings. We realize and celebrate that our employeeshave diverse needs, and that this diversity requires flexible andindividually directed support. Our priority is to offer acustomizable program that can be tailored to the specific needsof each individual, whether they enjoy ice climbing in Alaska,want to retire by age 40, or plan to adopt 3 children.”4
Case Studies: Google 3According to the company web site, the benefits atGoogle include:5 Health and wellness: This includes medicalinsurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, lifeand AD & D insurance, short and long termdisability insurance and business travel andaccident insurance. Retirement and savings: This includes theGoogle 401(K) plan. According to the Google website, “Employees may contribute up to 60% andreceive a Google match of up to the greater of (a)100% of your contribution up to 3,000 or (b)50% of your contribution up to 8,250 per yearwith no vesting schedule! We offer a variety ofinvestment options to choose from throughVanguard, our 401(k) Plan Administrator. To helpyou with those tough investment decisions,employees can access Financial Engines to receivepersonalized investment advice” and a collegesavings plan. Time away: Vacation (this includes 15 daysvacation the first year at Google and 25 days the6th year), holidays (12 paid holidays with sick daystaken as necessary), maternity benefits (Up to 12weeks off at approximately 100% pay, eligible foran additional 6 weeks if employed at Google formore than 1 year) and take‐out benefit (To helpmake things easier, new moms and dads are ableto expense up to 500 for take‐out meals duringthe first 3 months that they are home with theirnew baby).
Case Studies: Google 4 Benefits beyond the basics: This includesthings like tuition reimbursement, bonuses forreferring someone who accepts a job at Google,back‐up child care, gift matching and adoptionassistance. Benefits way beyond the basics: Thesebenefits include food (free lunch and dinnercooked by gourmet chefs as snacks betweenmeals), financial planning classes and on‐siteservices at the Mountain View headquarters suchas oil change and car wash services, dry cleaning,massage therapy, gym, hair stylist and fitnessclasses.Although I could find no hard data, I feel that it’s safe toassume that the jobs at Google are very secure for severalreasons. First, Google’s lifeblood is technology innovation—this is what the company must do to be successful. For thisreason, Google invests a lot of time and energy in the hiringprocess because it wants to make sure that it hires only thesmartest and most ambitious people who are nice to workwith—people who are motivated by taking on big challengesand problems. These people are passionate and want to throwthemselves completely into their jobs. Consequently, they’renot going to hire on with a company where they don’t thinkthey have a bright future. In addition, Google receives well overone million job applications per year. This wouldn’t happen ifunless the applicants felt that the jobs at Google were verysecure. In addition, Google wouldn’t have made the Fortune listof 100 Best Companies To Work For every year since 2007 ifthe jobs there weren’t secure.Google also provides its employees with a verypleasant work environment that is conducive to sharing ideas
Case Studies: Google 5and opinions. The Google web site describes the offices atGoogle this way: “Our corporate headquarters, fondlynicknamed the Googleplex, is located in Mountain View,California. Today it’s one of our many offices around the globe.While our offices are not identical, they tend to share someessential elements. Here are a few things you might see in aGoogle workspace: Local expressions of each location, from a mural inBuenos Aires to ski gondolas in Zurich, showcasingeach office’s region and personality. Bicycles or scooters for efficient travel betweenmeetings; dogs; lava lamps; massage chairs; largeinflatable balls. Googlers sharing cubes, yurts and huddle rooms –and very few solo offices. Laptops everywhere – standard issue for mobilecoding, email on the go and note‐taking. Foosball, pool tables, volleyball courts, assortedvideo games, pianos, ping pong tables, and gymsthat offer yoga and dance classes. Grassroots employee groups for all interests, likemeditation, film, wine tasting and salsa dancing. Healthy lunches and dinners for all staff at avariety of cafés. Break rooms packed with a variety of snacks anddrinks to keep Googlers going.”6
Case Studies: Google 6The web site goes on to say, “Though Google has growna lot since it opened in 1998, we still maintain a small companyfeel. At lunchtime, almost everyone eats in the office café,sitting at whatever table has an opening and enjoyingconversations with Googlers from different teams. Ourcommitment to innovation depends on everyone beingcomfortable sharing ideas and opinions.”7As the above discussion points out, employees atGoogle encounter few, if any, distractions that would keepthem from giving their full energy and attention to performingtheir jobs.Single Status—Everyone is Treated as anEqualGoogle Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, once said inan interview with Steven Pearlstein, financial writer for theWashington Post, “No particular person has a strong say .AtGoogle, everyone is the same.”8 In other words, everyoneworking at Google has the same status. As one Googleemployee put it, “You have an equal seat at the table, and it’sbased on the power of your idea, not how long you’ve beenhere, tenure, title or anything. In my first week here, I wasshocked that for the product I was working on, the productmanager was straight out of college. She was making decisionsabout delaying the product. In every other company I haveworked in, it had to go up to three levels of VPs before youcould say that you were pushing out the schedule.”9It should be noted that at Google, equal status amongemployees is a necessity not a nicety. The reason is that inorder to maintain its innovative edge Google has to hire thesmartest and most ambitious people it can find. These are thecreative types; the innovators—the people who get off on
Case Studies: Google 7figuring out how to do the impossible. Furthermore, these arealso the kind of people prefer doing things their way, whichmeans they strongly resent being ordered around. According acommentary by Nicholas Carlson on the Pearlstein/Schmidtinterview, “ Googlers are a special people to be bossed by noone, only a collective will for good.”10 According to a commentmade by Steven Pearlstein in his interview with Eric Schmidt,there is a consensus among Google employees that themanagers at Google work for them and not vice versa.Managers then are perceived as leaders whose job it is toprovide encouragement and support for the rest of theemployees.11 This is why Google is a network based, flatorganization that is very non‐hierarchical. It providesemployees with the freedom to work on their own terms anddo their jobs as they see fit.Google also prides itself as a consensus culture whereeveryone committed to finding the best idea. The companyfirmly believes that the best idea can only be found if peopleare willing to openly share their ideas and opinions whichoften conflict with each other. For this reason, Googleencourages lively dissent and debate where employees openlyquestion and challenges each other’s ideas. The company haslearned that this often very spirited process is what producesthe best idea. This kind of discussion can only take place in anenvironment where everyone is treated as an equal and no onehas the power to veto which is why Google is committed to itsculture of openness, flatness and transparency. As stated onthe Google web site, “Because we believe that each Googler isan equally important part of our success, no one hesitates topose questions directly to Larry or Sergey (the Googlefounders) in our weekly all‐hands (“TGIF”) meetings .”12
Case Studies: Google 8As you can see from the above discussion, the cultureat Google is very definitely single‐status.Mission—This is What We DoAccording to the Google web site, the mission of thecompany is to “Google’s mission is to organize the world’sinformation and make it universally accessible and useful.”13Also from the web site, “‘The perfect search engine,’ says co‐founder Larry Page, ‘would understand exactly what you meanand give back exactly what you want.’ When Google began, youwould have been pleasantly surprised to enter a search queryand immediately find the right answer. Google becamesuccessful precisely because we were better and faster atfinding the right answer than other search engines at the time.But technology has come a long way since then, and theface of the web has changed. Recognizing that search is aproblem that will never be solved, we continue to push thelimits of existing technology to provide a fast, accurate andeasy‐to‐use service that anyone seeking information canaccess, whether they’re at a desk in Boston or on a phone inBangkok. We’ve also taken the lessons we’ve learned fromsearch to tackle even more challenges.”14 This once again tellsus that Google is all about moving forward through technologyrather than being content with its past successes.Core Values—This is How We Do ItGoogle has a philosophy which is made up of a set often core principles that guide the behavior of its employees.Within the context of these principles, Google employees arefree to do their jobs as they see fit.
Case Studies: Google 9Google Philosophy—Ten Core PrinciplesAs stated on the Google web site, “As we keep lookingtowards the future, these core principles guide our actions.”The following information regarding Google’s ten coreprinciples has been excerpted from the Google web site:15 Focus on the user and all else will follow.Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providingthe best user experience possible. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.We do search. With one of the world‘s largestresearch groups focused exclusively on solvingsearch problems, we know what we do well, andhow we could do it better. Fast is better than slow.We know your time is valuable, so when you’reseeking an answer on the web you want it rightaway–and we aim to please. We may be the onlypeople in the world who can say our goal is tohave people leave our website as quickly aspossible. Democracy on the web works.Google search works because it relies on themillions of individuals posting links on websites tohelp determine which other sites offer content ofvalue. You don’t need to be at your desk to need ananswer.The world is increasingly mobile: people wantaccess to information wherever they are,whenever they need it.
Case Studies: Google 10 You can make money without doing evil.Google is a business. The revenue we generate isderived from offering search technology tocompanies and from the sale of advertisingdisplayed on our site and on other sites across theweb. We don’t allow ads to be displayed on ourresults pages unless they are relevant where theyare shown. We believe that advertising can be effectivewithout being flashy. We don‘t accept pop–upadvertising, which interferes with your ability tosee the content you’ve requested. Advertising on Google is always clearlyidentified as a “Sponsored Link,” so it does notcompromise the integrity of our search results. There’s always more information out there.Once we’d indexed more of the HTML pages on theInternet than any other search service, ourengineers turned their attention to informationthat was not as readily accessible. The need for information crosses all borders.Our company was founded in California, but ourmission is to facilitate access to information for theentire world, and in every language. You can be serious without a suit.Our founders built Google around the idea thatwork should be challenging, and the challengeshould be fun. Great just isn’t good enough.We see being great at something as a startingpoint, not an endpoint. We set ourselves goals we
Case Studies: Google 11know we can’t reach yet, because we know that bystretching to meet them we can get further thanwe expected.As was the case with W. L. Gore & Associates, theculture at Google contains all four elements of a full‐engagement culture. This means that it provides its employeeswith the opportunity to experience the satisfaction of all fiveneed levels of the Maslow need hierarchy. This explains whyGoogle enjoys such a high level of employee engagement andwhy it receives well over one million job applications eachyear.Step Two: Hire Only Qualified People Who MeshWith the CultureGoogle is obsessed with the quality of its employees aswell as how they fit into its culture. According to CorporateCulture Pros, Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt madethe following comment about the hiring philosophy at Google:“Building a company you have the chance to shape the culture.Nothing is more important in doing that than hiring.”16 (Pleasenote that all parenthetical words and phrases throughout therest of this section on Google are those of the author.) He wenton to make the following points about hiring and culture atGoogle: “It makes an enormous difference who you hire atevery level. Most companies pay lip service to this genericallybut don’t manage that well. You need to get very specific aboutwho is going to succeed in your company .Google spends a lotof time on evaluating technical qualifications, as well aspassion and commitment (cultural fit) . Google gives theimpression of not managing the company, because they don’t.They put all attention on hiring right people .Once you getstarted with the right seeding of people; you will see a building
Case Studies: Google 12of ‘self‐initiative’ behavior .Make sure you have a recruitingteam so managers don’t just hire their friends.”17Steven Levy, author of the best selling In the Plex: HowGoogle Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives had this to sayabout the hiring philosophy at Google in an interview withFINS: “Everyone has to be really smart and really ambitious.The first thing they do is ask people for their SAT scores and[college] GPAs, which they do no matter how old they are. Theythink SAT scores are an intelligence quotient and your GPAshows how hard you work. They're looking for someone who'svery smart and very ambitious and someone who can survivein the Google atmosphere (culture), where people disagree allthe time. The winners are the ones who can produce the mostinteresting data. There's also the "Googliness" screen, to see ifyou can fit into the culture. Google has this culture wherequirkiness is encouraged but they don't like bad actors, thepeople who are creepy.”18When asked about the role Google’s hiring philosophyplayed in the company’s success, Mr. Levy had this to say: “Tohave a really high bar for intelligence and ambition creates acertain workforce. Lots of people tell me, when they describewhat it was like to work at Google, they said when they first gotthere they were struck by how universally smart all their co‐workers are. That's a distinguishing feature of Google—theydon't want anyone who's not really smart. The hiring processis made so people won't compromise. For instance, the peoplewho do the hiring aren't hiring for people who are going towork in their groups, that way they're not tempted to say weneed someone to fill this position right now and he'll do. Theydon't want that to happen. Except for a few exceptions, you'renot hiring the person who's going to work for you.”19
Case Studies: Google 13The bottom line is that Google is looking for brightpeople who can think outside the box and work within theGoogle culture. They want very smart people who are creative,but at the same time who are nice to work with. They don’twant any overly arrogant people because they’re too hard towork with. According to Eric Schmidt, “It’s much easier to havean employee base where everyone is doing exactly what theywant every day. They’re much easier to manage because theynever have any problems. They’re always excited, and they’realways working on whatever they care about (this meansthey’re able to satisfy their need for meaning through theirwork). So you’re much better off if you select people to workfor your firm who really want to change the world—they’redoing their life’s passion.”20 It should be noted here that whenpeople are doing their life’s passion, they’re engaged with theirwork.As author Steven Levy put it, “Landing a job at Googlewill put you through a process that makes a Harvardapplication look easy.” 21 According to the Google web site22the hiring process begins with an online search for a jobopening that interests you by job department, location, or evenby key word. Once you find a job opening that interests you,you then apply online. Your qualifications and experience willthen be reviewed by one of our recruiters to determine if youare a fit. If you are a possible match for the position, a recruiterwill contact you to learn more about your background andanswer questions about our hiring process and what it's like towork at Google. If your skills fit the job, a phone interview willbe conducted to assess your technical skills and proficiency, tothe level of determining whether you sh
Case Studies: Google 1 CASE STUDY: GOOGLE Google is a very successful information technology/web search company with more than 21,000 employees working in 77 offices located in 43 countries. It was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. According to the Google website, Google has grown by leaps and bounds since then.
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Annual Report 2014-2015 “ get it right, and we’ll see work which empowers and connects, work which is unique, authentic and life-affirming, work which at its best is genuinely transfor-mational ” (Nick Capaldi, Chief Exec, Arts Council of Wales, March 2015, Introduction to ‘Person-Centred Creativity’ publication, Valley and Vale Community Arts) One of the key aims and proven .