Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo
Corporate culture is arguably one of the most important aspects of any organization. A strong, healthy culture provides several benefits, including an appealing brand identity and high retention numbers. And in any conversation about modern corporate culture, one company consistently crops up: Google.
Now synonymous with endless buffets, rec rooms, and zen pods, Google has refashioned expectations on employee experience. Rightly or wrongly, when attracting top talent, companies have stopped asking themselves, “How much can I pay my people?” and started asking “How can we be more like Google?”
Last week, as part of Philippine Startup Week, Google Philippines shared the four core principles that have made their company the benchmark for employee experience.
Gone are the days of the sad, dreary cubicle. More and more companies are switching to fun and colorful offices, a trend that’s steadily growing as millennials and Gen Z-ers populate the workplace. The folks at Google have taken this concept and multiplied it to the nth degree. Their Zurich office alone is a smorgasbord of gondola-shaped booths, saloon-themed lounges, and slides in lieu of boring old stairs.
On the other hand, a well-designed office makes work hours more efficient. By having their own micro-kitchens (or MKs) on every floor, Google is able to cut off the time spent by employees going to and fro coffee shops for their breaks.
It can also inspire creativity and synergy among employees. Google Singapore stationed their canteens and cafes in the middle of the office so that all of their employees, whether from HR or engineering, could get to know each other and maybe even come up with crazy ideas together.
Speaking of crazy ideas, it’s vital to Google culture to have these “moonshots” on the daily. As change happens at an increasingly exponential rate, companies must aim for 10x improvements instead of 10% if they want to keep up with consumer demand.
For instance, Google’s experimental program Area 120 incubates crazy ideas that could possibly be developed into a new product for the company. By giving these teams funding and freedom for a whole year, they’re able to push the boundaries without worrying about a restricting supervisor.
Of course, giving full creative freedom doesn’t always equate to success. Google Glass, the “smart glasses” that caused quite a stir a few years ago, didn’t quite catch on with the public as expected. But as it says on Area 120’s website, “Our teams succeed when we test the limits and learn something new.”
The idea of management is often divisive for employees. Who hasn’t experienced feeling pressured or ticked off by an overbearing supervisor? However, good management can actually bring out the best in a team. Google is governed by three principles when it comes to this aspect.
First, managers must share everything. With workplace transparency, employees become more aligned with the company’s vision and are able to communicate better with their teams.
Second, decisions must be based on data and not opinions. Every year, the company conducts Googlegeist, an anonymous, internal survey that asks hard questions on compensation and confidence in top management, among others. This way, supervisors are able to get an honest glimpse at the company’s overall sentiment and base their decisions on them.
Third and last, managers are expected not to manage, but to lead. Micromanaging isn’t allowed in the workplace. One effort to help ensure this is to keep teams at a minimum of eight members, which Google found to be a difficult number to micromanage by a single supervisor.
Googliness is a little difficult to define, even for Google’s own employees. But the word that’s probably closest to it is passion—and it’s something that, at Google, goes beyond just work.
The insight here is that if a person actively pursues a passion, they must be dedicated when it comes to work as well. Extracurricular activities can also reduce stress and increase creativity, which are obviously likewise beneficial to work.
Google’s internal GTG portal displays fun courses offered by other Googlers, which not only helps employees bond but also allows for skills and interests to be spread across the company. And for those who’d like to give back to the community, internal initiative Google Give allows employees to participate in philanthropic activities for a week in a year, with the equivalent salary donated to the employee’s organization of choice.