4 Lessons from Google on Building a Culture of Success and Employee Happiness
Do you want your company to be the kind of company employees brag about? Be prepared to work for it. Companies known for their lively culture and high levels of employee happiness didn’t get lucky. They earned it, and they keep on earning it.
The more we learn from the latest research and case studies on cultivating employee happiness, the more obvious it is that institutional happiness doesn’t happen randomly or confine itself to certain industries. There’s an art to it, backed by a growing body of science built on big data.
But don’t be intimidated. Building a successful culture that retains and motivates employees is a rewarding process, and you can take the first steps starting today.
Let’s look at Google for inspiration. The Internet giant, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., has a unique culture among its corporate peers, according to KISSmetrics blogger Zach Bulygo. “It’s not the typical corporate culture. In fact, just by looking at pictures inside the Googleplex, you can see that it looks more like an adult playground, not a place for work.”
Fortune ranked Google #1 in the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” Even when Google employees do gather ’round the virtual water cooler to complain, their criticisms are relatively petty (“Everyone is awesome, so they can hire the very best people to do even the most mundane jobs”).
Here are four reasons Google has such a stellar reputation for employee happiness — and four ways you can build this culture of success at your company.
What Google Does: Potential hires are asked esoteric problem-solving questions during interviews, such as, “How many golf balls fit in a school bus?” or “There are eight balls. Seven of them weigh the same, but one is heavier. Using a balance scale, how do you find the heavier ball with just two weighings?” The worst answer to these questions is “I don’t know,” but there may not otherwise be a “correct” answer. Out of the 2.5 million people who apply to Google every year, the company is aiming to hire those who think fast under pressure and are comfortable talking through their own thought process.
The Takeaway: To engage employees, encourage passion and constant learning. Read more about how engagement relates to passion in our post, “Plan for More Employee Engagement in 2014, Researchers Say.”
What Google Does: Complacency is a big no-no. “Google doesn’t view their culture as a ‘set it and forget it’ program. They’re actively changing and maintaining it, because it’s crucial to their success,” Bulygo writes. This means constantly looking for new ways to make the work fresh, focused and streamlined, while giving employees the freedom to innovate.
The Takeaway: Google may be tightly controlled on a corporate level, but on a manager-to-employees level, there’s some leeway. Empower employees by listening more and encouraging them to take on challenging projects, but don’t let the work become unfocused or scattered.
What Google Does: Big data informs many of the company’s human resource decisions. Laszlo Bock, who heads Google’s People Operations Department — human resources in most companies — told CBS News that tracking data on employee productivity and happiness pays off. For example, “When an employee starts on their first day, we have data that says, if the manager shows up and says, ‘Hi nice to meet you, you’re on my team, we’re gonna be working together,’ and does a few other things, those people end up 15 percent more productive in nine months.”
The Takeaway: Even if your company doesn’t have the infrastructure or manpower for intense data-harnessing, search for lessons from the data you keep already and look for other ways to collect meaningful feedback.
What Google Does: The perks Google offers its employees free of charge are legendary. Nap pods. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, all organic and chef-prepared. Massages. Swimming pools. On-site physicians, laundry and haircuts. Foosball and bocce ball breaks. (Read the full list and background on Google employee perks in this How Stuff Works article.)
The Takeaway: Healthy, well-fed, well-rested employees are happy employees. For this reason, Googleplex-like perks are spreading to the rest of the American workplace. Opportunities for workplace napping are on the rise (“Less Coffee, More Napping: Real Trends in Work-Life Benefits). And even if an on-site medical staff is out of the question at your company, fostering opportunities for workplace wellness isn’t. Check out our recent post on easy, fun ways to incorporate workplace wellness into employees’ daily regimen.
To learn more about bringing engagement, gratitude and happiness to your workplace, download our FREE guide to “Workplace Gratitude” today.
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