Google, in the end, is a company that’s all about data. Its wildly profitable search-ad business depends on input from people to target ads. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Google applies some of those lessons to its employees. Farhad Manjoo at Slate takes a deep look at Google’s HR and finds a rigorously pragmatic, data obsessive organisation. The division, called People Operations (POPS for short) works constantly towards efficiency and cost effectiveness.
“At the heart of POPS is a sophisticated employee-data tracking program, an effort to gain empirical certainty about every aspect of Google’s workers’ lives — not just the right level of pay and benefits but also such trivial-sounding details as the optimal size and shape of the cafeteria tables and the length of the lunch lines.”
That data goes into things like optimising the impact and cost effectiveness of Google’s legendary perks. For example, the 5 month leave for mothers came after they realised they were losing too many women, and that the losses came primarily from new mothers. The data-based extra 2 months of leave decreased attrition by 50 per cent, and ended up costing nothing extra because recruiting in Silicon Valley is so expensive.
That rigorous data collection also goes into hiring and management. “[We want to] bring the same level of rigour to people-decisions that we do to engineering decisions,” according to people analytics head Prasad Setty.
Google’s famous for promoting a flat hierarchy. But after extensive data analysis, they found that middle managers are extremely important, and found out ways to improve bad ones.
Google’s using workplace analytics in a fascinating way. The first thought upon hearing that term is the image of draconian targets and productivity measures; of someone watching over your shoulder to make sure you aren’t wasting company time or dollars.
But workplace analytics can also be used to determine the optimum lunch line, which is three or four minutes, or to figure out that something that seems lavish, like an extra two months of leave for new mothers, isn’t costly, and is probably even a good investment in terms of happiness.
It’s something more companies will probably look to emulate in the future.
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