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Learning From Google: 15 Ways To Drive Employee Engagement

Portions of this post were taken from two Forbes articles on Cracking Google and Beyond Perks:

With more than two million applicants a year, it seems like everyone wants to work at Google. Perhaps it’s because the search giant has been crowned the “Happiest Company in America.”  In past years, CareerBliss.com has ranked Google No. 1 after more than 100,000 worker-generated reviews from more than 10,000 companies. Scores were based on such factors as work-life balance, relationships with bosses and co-workers, compensation, growth opportunities, a company’s culture and the opportunity for employees to exert control over the daily work flow.

Getting a job at Google is equivalent to running the gauntlet. It is nearly ten times harder to get a job at Google than it is to get into Harvard. Interested in navigating the application process and landing a job at Google? Here’s an inside look courtesy of Staff.com:

Credit: Staff.com

15 Ways Google Drives Employee Engagement

You don’t become the happiest company by chance. It’s a product of thoughtful design and ultimately culture. Let’s explore 15 reasons why:

1. Dollars and Sense – With billions of dollars in revenue every year, Google pays some some the highest average salaries in the tech industry. Takeaway: If you don’t want monkeys, don’t pay peanuts.

2. For-Purpose – Google has always pursued a noble cause. The company conducts business with a simple motto,”Don’t be evil.” Its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.  Here is Founder Larry Page talking about both purpose and the theory of abundance, “We have somewhat of a social mission, and most other companies do not. I think that’s why people like working for us, and using our services…Companies’ goals should be to make their employees so wealthy that they do not need to work, but choose to because they believe in the company … Hopefully, I believe in a world of abundance, and in that world, many of our employees don’t have to work, they’re pretty wealthy, they could probably go years without working. Why are they working? They’re working because they like doing something, they believe in what they’re doing.” Takeaway: Purpose is becoming a main differentiator in business. By 2020, there will be little or no distinction between for-profit and non-profit businesses. Companies will only be seen as for-purpose or not-for-purpose.

3. Caring – No stone is left unturned in their quest to provide a welcoming work environment for employees. Actions speak louder than mere words. Why is caring so important to the company? According to Google’s Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock, “It turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t.  And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.” Takeaway: People in life don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. To paraphrase the founder of SAS’ Dr. Jim Goodnight, “If you care and treat people like they matter, they will.”
 

4. Creative Outlet – Google allows its employees the option to use up to 20% of their work week at Google to pursue special projects. That means for every standard work week, employees can take a full day to work on a project unrelated to their normal workload. Google claims that many of their products in Google Labs (i.e. Gmail) started out as pet projects in the 20% time program. Last year Quartz reported that 20% time had been abolished, but Google responded saying it’s very much alive and kicking. Takeaway: Autonomy and ownership are powerful drivers of engagement.

5. A Voice – The Google-O-Meter gives all employees a voice on employee suggestions and potential cultural changes . According to a post by Diana Ransom: “Google’s Chief Culture Officer Stacy Sullivan implemented the company’s charting tool, the Google-O-Meter, to gauge the popularity of employee suggestions, such as housing more doctors on site or bringing overseas employees to headquarters for a visit. ‘It wasn’t something that we would just go and implement for them,’ she says. ‘Their suggestions had to be reflective of things about the culture that [many] people wanted to change.” Takeaway: Be transparent and give your employees a voice.

6. Benefits Beyond the Grave. There is a Google Perk that extends into the afterlife. Should a U.S. Googler pass away while working for Google, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their nearly 40,000 employees qualify. Takeaway: Smart companies are invested into their employees and their lives beyond the workplace.

7. Modern Family – Google gives employees in same-sex relationships extra cash to cover their partners’ health benefits. Currently, when receiving partner health care coverage, same-sex domestic partners are subject to an extra tax that straight, married couples don’t have to pay. Google is shouldering the burden of paying this tax by compensating partnered LGBT employees for the amount of the tax, which comes to a bit more than $1,000 each year. This benefit will also cover any dependents of the partner in the same-sex couple. Takeaway: Be ready to adapt to today’s modern family. You need to be proactive with your policies for issues such as eldercare, paternal leave, infertility, and adoption.

8. Bathrooms – Googlers have access to some of the most high-tech toilets around. These Japanese imports offer washing and drying of your nether regions as well as the mysterious “wand cleaning.” Both the wash water and the seat itself can be warmed or cooled depending on your preference. Takeaway: Find ways to make your workplace stand out from a sea of sameness.

Here’s Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter at Google talking about the toilets:

 
9. Kingpin – Google has a bowling alley for employees. Takeaway: The company knows how to roll.
 
10. Training & Development – Google’s “CareerGuru” program matches Google executives with Google employees to provide confidential, one-on-one career coaching  and guidance around the subjects of work-life balance, personal and professional development, communication styles and conflict resolution, among others. Takeaway: Invest in your people and develop a culture of mentoring.

11. Wellness – The Googleplex has some interesting lap pools. The outdoor mini-pools are like water treadmills: a strong current allows the Googler to swim and swim and go nowhere. Luckily, lifeguards are always on duty in case someone gets in over their head. Takeaway: Without health, we have nothing. A healthy employee is a basic starting point for a happy one.

12. Team Building – Google’s Conference Bike is used as a team-building exercise for new employees. It has four wheels and five riders who work together to move it around. Takeaway: Find interesting ways to bring teams together. A team that plays together, stays together.

13. Collaborative Space – According to Jonathan Strickland, “Google’s corridors are designed and set up for impromptu information sharing. Offices don’t resemble a typical corporate environment. Google arranges the workstations so that groups of three to four employees who work together sit in the same area. During the design phase, architect Clive Wilkinson faced a challenging problem: how do you group people together and still give them an environment in which they can concentrate on work without distractions? And how do you do it without turning Google into a labyrinth of cubicles? Wilkinson decided to use glass walls to divide the space into clusters. This design cuts down on much of the ambient noise inside the office. It also allows sunlight to filter in through the entire office. Each glass enclosure has a tent-like roof made of acrylic-coated polyester which contains the room’s lighting and sprinkler systems. Google executives want employees to be able to bounce ideas off each other. It’s the c­ompany’s hope that by encouraging interaction, workers will have greater job satisfaction and may even create the next big Google product.” Takeaway: Space Matters. You physical space should reinforce the culture in your company, not dictate it by default.

Google Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14. Food & Beverage – One of the most oft-cited perks of working at Google is the food. Google feeds its employees well. If you work at the Googleplex, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner free of charge. There are several cafés located throughout the campus, and employees can eat at any of them. The main café is Charlie’s Place, which takes its name from Google’s first lead chef, Charlie Ayers. Before creating meals for Googlers, Ayers was the chef for the Grateful Dead. Although Ayers left Google in 2005, the café still bears his name. The café has several stations, each offering different kinds of cuisine. Options range from vegetarian dishes to sushi to ethnic foods from around the world. Google’s culture promotes the use of fresh, organic foods and healthy meals. But when everything is free and you can eat whenever you want, it’s easy to go overboard. That’s where the Google 15 comes in. It refers to the 15 pounds many new Google employees put on once they start taking advantage of all the meals and snacks. Takeaway: Food is a communal activity. Perhaps the way to an employee’s heart through their stomach.

15. Openness and Transparency – One of things shaping culture at the search leader are “TGIF” meetings. They tend to happen most Fridays, said Craig Silverstein, who joined the founders as Google’s first employee in 1998. TGIF, where any Googler is free to ask the founders any company-related question, became a fixture of the culture. Takeaway: Be open by default. In the words of Louis Brandeis, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

More Than Just Perks

Anthology has been tracking the most admired companies by passive job-seekers in 2015-16, and every month Google has maintained its no. 1 spot. They recently asked 200 of their users the top three reasons for admiring Google. Out of five choices, perks were the least important. Here are the top four responses from passive job seekers at companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Snapchat, Amazon, Apple, and many others:

1. 71% said Positive Culture

2. 62.5 said Smart People

3. 58.5% said Cool Product

4. 57% said Success In The Market

5. 36.5% cited the generous benefits and perks employees

Words like meritocracy, inclusiveness, transparency, diversity, and empowerment are more than buzzwords at Google. They are part of the fabric that creates a positive culture. An environment of caring where your employer gives more than expected and allows you to do your best work toward a noble purpose. That’s a positive culture.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Many of these 15 ways to drive employee engagement were featured in the book, Green Goldfish. Here’s a slideshare on the concept:

It pays to work out here @ClifBar

Training takes on new meaning

#105 in the Green Goldfish ProjectClif Bar

 clif bar green goldfish wellness #105

Taken from a post by ABC news:

The Emeryville-based nutrition company offers employees a half-hour of paid time to work out. Additionally, employees get 2.5 hours of free personal training.

Working out is not only encouraged at Clif Bar . . . it’s part of your workday. Tough to get motivated on your own? No worries, Clif Bar hosted over 1,600 classes last year. Add in a full locker room to clean up after your workout.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here’s a YouTube video on Clif Bar HQ in Emeryville:

Wanna see Part II and Part III? Part III includes a tour of the gym.

The Green Goldfish Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees.  Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, increase employee retention and drive positive WoM.

Wellness is a priority @DealerDotCom

Finding Your Dot Calm

#70 in the Green Goldfish ProjectDealer.com

dealer.com green goldfish #70

Taken from a post by Marc Acito:

Dealer is a Burlington, VT based developer of websites and online marketing tools for car dealerships and manufacturers, has added more than 150 employees, bringing their roster up to 420.

CEO Mark Bonfigli believes that employee wellness and workforce productivity are directly linked, so Dealer.com has a full on-site gym and tennis court, a subsidized local/organic “Dot Calm Café” and weekly chair massages. And they’re adding a yoga studio, a solarium and a rooftop vegetable garden.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here’s a look at Dealer on YouTube by the folks at ‘Stuck in Vermont’:

The Green Goldfish Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees.  Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, increase employee retention and drive positive WoM.