BOOK REVIEW & SUMMARY
As one of the biggest companies on earth, Google is a melting pot of some of the brightest and most innovative people on earth. The challenge of ensuring that these employees live up to, and even exceed their huge potential is definitely expected to be a daunting task. When you have some of the brightest minds in the work in your employ, you have to be careful not to clip their wings with unnecessary bureaucracy and excessive rules. Talent needs space to thrive and this space is what makes Google radically different from other corporations.
Lazlo Buck, former Senior Vice President at Google, authored this book as an insight into the culture obtainable at Google, a culture that ranks amongst the best at retaining and exploring employee talent. A recurring theme throughout the book is the need for creative allowance and to avoid babysitting your employees. Rather, let them work at their own speed and you’ll reap a bountiful harvest.
Google’s workplace culture is predicated on the foundation, which, founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page have instituted right from the onset as a budding company. A culture that revolves around talent rather than strict bureaucracy.
They recognized the need to let talent run the show at an organization, instead of restricting the abilities of the brightest people on earth.
The free rein employees have at Google is what keeps the employees motivated and passionate about their work. Talent is rewarded at Google with stock options, unparalleled workplace benefits, flexible work hours and a freedom to create. All these add up to a near-perfect work environment, optimal for productivity and greatness.
Work Rules! is a goldmine for Human Resources managers who want to have an in-depth look at the way one of the biggest companies on earth handles its legion of talented employees. There are 13 chapters that describe in detail the approach Google has taken to dealing with its workers. Ways in which to interact with and manage talent without burning them out or restricting them are discussed.
The book examines 9 work rules that ensure the workplace never devolves into a cesspool of mediocrity and unproductivity.
Listed out in chapter 14 of the book...
The 9 work rules that have made Google the behemoth that it is today...
#1. “Give your work meaning”
Building a culture where employee satisfaction is at its zenith is a hallmark of successful companies. Employees who look forward to each workday are noticeably more committed and productive. Such culture must be instilled right from the start of the organization. In Google’s case, founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page made the employees their number one priority. You must recognize that employees want to be a part of a welcoming and flexible environment, a workplace where they are not limited by the shackles of micromanagement. A key part of what makes Google great is the fact that the company makes the day to day activities of its employees feel more engaging than monotonous. There is a sense of purpose that drives employees towards committing fully to the organization.
#2. “Trust your people”
Give people slightly more trust, freedom, and authority than you are comfortable giving them. If you’re not nervous, you haven’t given them enough.
This is a seemingly perplexing mantra Larry Page and Sergey Bring have instituted at Google. Employees have a somewhat free rein and have access to proprietary data and information right from the get-go. Information is easily accessible across various departments and this leads to a faster and more efficient workspace. Giving employees the freedom to work to their full potential is a huge show of trust and this is rewarded by employees striving to give their very best efforts. Autonomy in the workplace is key to a productive organization. Managers should let employees manage their immediate workspace. Micromanagement is the bane of creativity.
#3. “Hire only people who are better than you”
The process of hiring and recruiting at Google is intense. Google only employs an infinitesimal portion of its annual job applicants. The cutoff for eligibility for a spot at Google is enduring brilliance at your current work place. Google takes pride in employing only the very best talents in their respective industries and the process of recruiting such persons is one that can span a few years in some instances. The brightest minds out there are already employed and you have to be patient, deliberate and persistent to make them cross over to your side. Exploit connections and social tools in recruiting new employees. You can determine who is a perfect fit for your organization from interacting on multiple social platforms. Recruiters have the duty to ensure new hires are the very best available in the market. There must be no rush in filling a vacant spot in the organization with a candidate who has a glittering CV but a less than stellar history in his/her past employment.
#4. “Don’t confuse development with managing performance”
Companies must aim to help develop employees' talents. Nurturing employee talent company wide leads to a massive boost in productivity and employee satisfaction. Google employs a system of evaluation, where employees have to meet up with a previously established goal. Their progress in the attainment of such goals goes into their performance evaluation and is factored into considerations for promotions. Managers set goals for employees on behalf of the company and such targets push the limits of employee ability. Google provides an avenue for employees to further develop their talents with a vast array of seminars and events aimed at nurturing talent. The entire training system is an internal affair - employees with years of success and high returns mentor the newcomers or below average employees. A personal and familiar feel is present in all training programs - familiarity is a key aspect in such developmental endeavors.
#5. “Focus on the two tails”
The two tails– the top and bottom 5% of a company’s performers are critical to any organization’s success. The top 5% should be analyzed for the actions and methods they have employed to consistently outperform expectations, and the bottom 5% should be studied to find out what actions to avoid and what improvements could be made to get out of the red. The findings from these two divergent classes should be applied across the company; to boost underperforming sectors and prevent high performers from devolving into bad habits.
#6. “Be frugal and generous”
Google provides its employees with some of the most expensive and generous workplace benefits anywhere in the world. The benefits that employees have are numerous and have a huge cost outlay. Google however recognizes the need to build employee satisfaction, goodwill and happiness; a happy worker is a hardworking worker. The huge financial outlay that goes towards providing these benefits and office perks places in comparison to the profits garnered as a direct result of employee satisfaction. The atmosphere at Google is generally a relaxed one with employees discussing trending social events, from news to entertainment - and they do all this on company time! The casual work environment at Google inevitably leads to a rise in employee interactions which grows into collective brainstorming on ideas hat move the company forward.
#7. “Pay unfairly”
Lazlo Bock, in his exalted position as a Vice President at Google had to take a pay cut to join the company. Rather than monetary compensation, Google gave its employees a chance to become part owners of the huge corporation. Stock options were offered in lieu of money. Google now employs a remuneration system that is largely based on talent rather than rank – Employee earnings are based on their performance, as a result, two employees with the same designation can have a huge disparity in pay. The high earners at Google are also the highest performing members of staff, with their pay and performance levels being directly proportional. This incentive-based scheme encourages intense competition that benefits the company.
Nudges are the subtle ways Google gets its staff to adopt a more wholesome workplace habit. With suggestions that are so casual, the subject thinks it is their original idea, Google is able to make changes without triggering employee unrest. Exploiting persuasive psychological tricks, Google is able to influence the decision making of its workers. They are encouraged to make the right choices with the help of such cues and nudges.
#9. “Manage the Rising Expectations”
Before embarking on making any changes in the workplace you must ensure there is a collective understanding among key employees on the direction the company is headed in.
These 9 work rules are relevant and easily adaptable to all businesses. Their foundational or core idea is the fact that the employee is the biggest and most important wheel in the organizational drive.
Work Rules! also discusses the following talking point along with the rules outlined...
- Try New Things
Do not be afraid to roll out new workplace policies and programs. You must, however, be upfront with the employees that such new introductions are subject to probation and may not be permanent. You then decide, based on feedback and outcome, whether to make such policies permanent or discontinue the same.
- Encourage Positive Choice; Do Not Make It
Treat employees as equals and let them make choices of their own accord. You can, however, nudge them towards what the company desires. Use subtle methods of suggestions to make your preferred choice more attractive to your workers and they will naturally conform to the same. Nudge your workers towards your preferences rather than imposing your will upon them like a dictator. Google employs the use of such sly and subtle tricks, like placements of food choices and the distance to the same, and they have the desired effect on the dietary patterns of the entire workforce.
- Routine Evaluation of Managers
An inverse of the already popular employee evaluation of managers, this turns the tables on the managers by making them the focus. Members of each manager's team respond to a survey on specific aspects of the manager’s methods and policies and the result is cumulated. Such results are then used towards solving problems that are identified. This leads to a more cooperative relationship between managers and subordinates as they both keep each other in check.
- Symbolism of Benefits
Not all of Google’s famed employee benefits and perks are expensive to offer but yet all have a similar effect on profits – Massive! Perks like haircuts and even schemes like ‘Bring your child/parent to work day' which are of little to no cost to Google goes a long way to boosting worker morale and passion. The mere presence of such benefits is enough to elicit a high commitment level and a more familial workplace culture.
- Hire Collectively
Rather than place the recruitment effort solely at the discretion of an individual, Google employs a team of four, a number that was researched and found optimal. This team of interviewers evaluates prospective hires and then aggregates their scores. This method of recruitment eliminates the risk of bias and nepotism and ensures the new hire is the very best available.
Work Rules! Fourteen chapters are a brilliant exposition from the head of the people arm of Google. The insights contained within are a must have for any business executive looking to mimic the success story that is Google. You must recognize that employees drive the company and granting managers excessive powers over them leads to a fall in creativity. Employees should be able to express themselves freely at work and satisfaction in the workplace correlates directly to profits at year’s end.
Apply these work rules diligently because, as Lazlo Bock puts it...
People can exist, indeed did exist for thousands of years, without companies. But companies can’t exist without people.