When you think of Google, certain words and ideas come quickly to mind. For many of us, those might include search, maps, Gmail or Android.
But on a recent visit to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, I got up close with another side of the company: its people.
While at Google, I was fortunate to attend a briefing with Engineering Manager Denis Krupennikov. He explained how the company is organized and run in a way that maximizes the talents of its people.
Companies often say things like, People are our biggest asset. Too often, however, those are just high-minded words. Many companies still operate with a top-down, command-structure mentality.
Not Google. In fact, I registered at least 5 ways that Google’s approach to people is distinctive.
Distinctive at Google
- Engineers rule. Of Google’s 98,000 employees, at least 60,000 are engineers. There isn’t an army of project managers and administrators shepherding these talented engineers through the stages of a project. A Google project team might consist of one product manager…and 700 engineers.
- Delegate outcomes, not actions. Google has found it gets its best results when senior management identifies broad goals or outcomes and lets the engineers figure out how to get there. Projects are coordinated from the bottom-up, not the top-down. This is how Google Chrome from idea to reality in just a few years.
- Make mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes cost time and money, but can ultimately lead to even bigger ideas and even better products. Google has created a safe environment where mistakes are considered part of the process.
- People manage their own careers. Google employees are encouraged to take full responsibility for their own career development. Staff are urged to constantly self-assess their performance and go as far as their talents and ambition can take them. Managers cannot block an employee’s desire to move elsewhere in the company and must be ready to say goodbye on two weeks’ notice.
- Pay for performance, not position. Conventionally, the higher you rank in the corporate org chart, the more you get paid. Not at Google. At much as 37% of your total compensation can come from a performance-based annual bonus. A top-performing software engineer could therefore earn more than a Vice-President.
You might think that Google runs on code. In fact, as I learned, Google runs on pride. People who care about their work will work more effectively.
As the owner of VistaVu, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to structure roles, projects, hiring and pay. My time at Google has reinforce the idea that there’s lots of room for companies to be less prescriptive in how they work. Hire good people, challenge them with big goals and get out of the way.
As Google has shown, factors that instill greater pride in the work will ultimately be better for the business.
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