What is it about Google's company culture that drives a strong competitive advantage? Here are 10 great examples of Google’s culture and why other companies should learn from them. Learn how to increase your employee engagement, productivity, and creativity.
A world-class company culture has been a key part of Google's employer brand for years. In fact, Google earned 12 awards from Comparably in 2018 alone, including Best Company Culture, Best CEO and Best Company Happiness. Comparably reveals company cultures and market compensation, showcasing the most fair and accurate display of employer brands. Google is also a consistent top-ranking company in Fortune’s list of Best Companies to Work, and is seen on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list every year.
You’ve probably heard of the nap pods, free food, and video game stations. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to peek into the Googleplex in California, you’d see what looks like an adult playground rather than the typical workplace filled with cubicles. While these nice things add to the uniqueness of Google’s culture, they only make up a small piece of what their culture is all about.
Here are 10 great examples of Google’s company culture and why other companies should learn from them.
#1: Built on Data
Since the company’s inception, Google has based most of their decisions on data. In every decision they make, whether big or small, qualitative and quantitative data are considered in the decision-making process. Google takes data seriously as it’s the driving force behind the moves they make.
How long are you willing to wait in line for lunch? Five minutes? As an example of data-backed decisioning, Google has performed studies to learn that the optimal time for people to stand in line waiting for lunch is about three to four minutes. If the diner-to-be waits any longer they may waste time. If any shorter, they won’t have the opportunity to meet new people while in line. Google also performed studies on optimal paid time off for new mothers, how to encourage networking at lunch, and other studies to continue offering the best company culture and workplace experience possible.
#2: A Fun Work Environment
Google is universally known for being a workplace where work doesn’t quite feel like work. In a world where cubicles and boring work environments are common, this is a difficult reputation to achieve. However, regardless of working longer hours and even weekends, employees at Google still claim to truly enjoy going to work.
The workplace as we know it has been long due for a change, and Google came up with the perfect solution, always leading with data and innovation. Instead of employees having to go elsewhere for lunch, fun, and relaxation, they can find everything they need right in the workplace. Google offers their employees the following perks at no cost:
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Dry cleaning
- Gyms and swimming pools
- Nap pods
- Video games
- Table sports such as foosball and ping pong
On top of these, there are even more perks that employees enjoy! Sure, perks come at an expense to Google, but with a low turnover rate and high satisfaction among employees, they’re saving more money than they spend on company culture.
#3: Creativity is Encouraged
Google has a firm understanding that as happiness increases in an employee, so does productivity and creativity. Google strives to create an environment where employees are free to express their creativity, whether by offering new solutions for the same problems or simply in the way they work. In fact, autonomy is the way of Google. Googlers (as employees of the company are called) are encouraged to work in any environment they please, which means they aren’t restricted to a cubicle with gray walls and dim lighting that limits creativity. Instead, employees can decide to work in a lounge area, the cafeteria, in a beanbag chair, etc. Wherever employees can focus and perform best is where Google prefers them to work.
Seeking to hire creative talent, Google isn’t any different from other companies. However, instead of only considering a candidate’s professional background, they seek to hire those who are naturally curious and have a passion for learning. The interview process is designed to allow Google interviewers to gauge whether a candidate is fun, self-driven, outspoken, and works well on a team. As more and more creative talent is hired, company culture and creativity in the workplace will only increase.
#4: Hiring for Character and Skill
On average, Google receives around three million job applications per year. Could you imagine the influx of resumés? However, the company hires less than one percent of those applicants – about 7,000. Google’s hiring process, while rigorous, is very effective in finding not only the best talent, but the best character. While it’s indeed necessary to hire the right skill sets that align with the existing company culture, Google places (catch the pun? If not, you will here) a huge emphasis on a candidate’s character as well, searching for people who are fun, humble, innovative, and team-oriented yet self-starting. While skills like math and reading can be taught, character and less tangible soft skills cannot.
#5: Happiness is a Science
Just like any other large company, Google has a human resources (HR) department, but they refer to it as “People Operations.” People operations are where raw science and HR intersect, and it’s what keeps Google a top performing company.
Whereas most HR departments are reactive, the People Operations (or POPS for short) department of Google is proactive. One of the greatest ways Google does this is by performing studies and collecting data. For example, a few years ago Google noticed that they had a high turnover rate for women. In pursuit of reducing this turnover rate, they performed further research, and they found they didn’t have a high turnover rate for women – they had a high turnover rate for new mothers specifically. The fix? Google now offers 18 weeks of paid maternity leave.
It should come as no surprise that Google has succeeded in increasing employee happiness by offering free perks (food, fitness, and health/dental), allowing employees to work in their preferred environments, and even setting up the lunch cafeteria so employees don’t have to wait any longer than three to four minutes in line.
Google’s organizational structure is flat, thus encouraging any and all employees to share their voice. A flat organizational structure is one that allows communication between employees at any level, which means a lower-level employee can share their opinion or concern directly with the CEO, for instance, without any pushback from their direct manager.
While this open-door policy that most companies have can be successful, keep in mind it could also limit an employee’s eagerness and ability to voice their opinions. The option to speak up is always there, but there could be fear of repercussions, no incentive for giving feedback, or no system in place to see any movement on the solution to a problem. In Google’s case, company culture starts with hiring employees who are eager to share ideas and collaborate. Then they allow their employees the freedom to do so in the workplace, whether with fellow employees or the CEO.
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#7: Defined Core Values
One of the greatest reasons why Google continues to be an innovator and leader in their industry (or industries, really) is because they have a clear idea of their values and goals. In fact, they have a web page, “Ten things we know to be true”, where they list their core values. The following are their core values, explained in further detail on their page:
- Focus on the user and all else will follow.
- It’s best to do one thing well.
- Fast is better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
- You can make money without doing evil.
- There’s always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great just isn’t good enough.
By having a clear understanding of their core values, Google can continue to hire people who share the same values, allowing for a good fit in the company’s culture and mission.
#8: Promoting Innovation
Ultimately, company culture and innovation can’t be separated. “You have to have the culture,” says Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, “and you need to get it right.” However, Google also believes that to stay competitive, companies absolutely must innovate.
Google promotes innovation in the workplace in a few ways. First, they hire the right people. Google boasts one of the most comprehensive and successful hiring processes, which allows them to find the most innovative talent. Then they encourage their employees to think outside the box. Instead of continuing to approach a problem from the same angle, Google allows employees to collaborate and try other ways of doing things. They encourage using all resources that are available (teammates, other departments, etc.) so that innovation is always at the forefront of the workflow.
#9: Financial Support for Employees
Google doesn’t only pay its employees nicely – they also provide them with personal finance assistance to ensure they stay in good financial health. The company understands that not everyone has a strong grasp of finances, and a lack of financial education may lead to debt and other issues.
You guessed it. As if all the other perks weren’t enough, Googlers also have access to free on-site financial advisors and planners. These experts are available to assist with debt, investing, general financial advice, and even help file taxes.
#10: Mobility Within the Company
As we know by this point, Google has a huge focus on company culture and ensuring their employees are happy. Yet another way that the company seeks to keep employees happy is by paying attention to their strengths and weaknesses. If an individual is working in a very technical position but shows more strengths in marketing or sales, they can transition to that field (while staying at Google of course). In any instance, Google would rather keep their talent and transfer them to a department where they’ll excel, than to lose an employee. Therefore, mobility and promotion within the company is not uncommon.
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