Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, gives an intriguing account of what makes Google achieve a consistent rating as one of the best places to work in, in his latest book ‘Work Rules!- Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead.’ Here are 10 insights from the book that can help you craft a high-freedom high-performance workspace.
1. Keep ‘The Management’ In Check: Seriously. Power dynamics in an organization often pose major hurdles in the path of keeping employees happy. The approach is to cleave the knot that often tightens with hierarchies. The way out is to deliberately take power and authority over employees away from managers. Otherwise integral company decisions like whom to hire, whom to fire or whom to promote cannot be made unilaterally by managers at Google. “The irony is that the best way to arrive at the beating heart of great management is to strip away all the tools on which management most rely.”
2. Think Like A Founder: Bock insists that anybody reading the book should start thinking of himself or herself as a founder. “Maybe not of an entire company, but the founder of a team, a family, a culture.” One should choose whether one wants to be a founder or an employee and the choice he says, is not too difficult. Becoming a founder or choosing to be the architect of your story is not a question of literal ownership, he asserts, but a question of attitude.
3. Give People Freedom, Trust: If one was to do a search for “Google culture”, one is most likely to find images of slides and beanbags, gourmet food and people riding a bike through office. But is that enough to make the work culture motivating? “Think of your work as a calling, with a mission that matters.” In a constantly evolving world and work culture, there is a simple motto for building a great culture – Giving people more trust, freedom and authority than you are comfortable with.
4. Hire People Brighter Than You: Brilliant hiring does not entail recruiting the biggest name or the top salesman or the cleverest engineer but somebody who will befit the context of the organization. There can be multiple ways of judging whether a person is suitable for the place or not, and more often than not, it has nothing to do with academic excellence or a renowned university degree. Debunking traditional HR myths, the recruitment mantra should be to “Only hire people who are better than you.”
5. Junk The Top-Down Approach: Eliminating a top-down hierarchical structure of work and employing practices to de-emphasize status symbols and titles can work wonders for an organization. The simple rule is to “make decisions based on data, not based on manager’s opinions,” writes Bock. “Be transparent with your people and give them a voice in shaping your team or company.”
6. Don’t Discard Low Performers: Put your best performers under a microscope and identify the bottom performing employees and train them to make them grow. Avoid following the traditional path of making “poor performers” the kiss of death; instead identify them and offer them a range of training and coaching to help them become better performers.
7. Make Life Easier For Employees: “Most people assume Google spends a fortune on doing special things for our employees. Aside from cafes and shuttles, we don’t,” writes Bock. Google’s people’s programs have been talked about in many influential circles but the lesser know fact is that it can be appropriated or replicated in any organization. To encourage efficiency in personal and professional lives, create a community where work and life at office is made easier for its employees. It’s not merely free meals, doctors and washing machines that make the culture fun; there’s much more. Programs like ‘Take your parents to work day’ or building micro kitchens on every floor for “no one should be more than two hundred feet away from food”, have been successful in building an atmosphere of efficiency and innovation.
8. Reward Thoughtful Failure: A paradigm change in the structure of compensation can have an unprecedented impact on the employees. “Celebrate accomplishment, not compensation.” By shifting from providing monetary awards to experiential rewards or giving rewards like a trip somewhere, a team party or any gift of the same value as the cash reward seems to keep people happier. “Reward thoughtful failure,” and if an employee’s efforts or goals were risky and ambitious, ease the pain of its failure by rewarding them. “If people shoot for the stars and only hit the moon, don’t treat them too harshly.”
9. Be Thoughtful: Find ways to say yes to your employees, nudge them to do better and be there for them when they need you the most. It ceases to matter whether the organization is lofty or small, always be thoughtful about the environment you create. People can live without a company but the other way round can never be true.
10. Admit Your Mistakes: It’s not all rainbows and unicorns at every organization, including Google. However in situations of crisis, admit your mistake and be transparent about it. Fix what is broken and take learning lessons out of them.