Google CEO Eric Schmidt says the recession changed the company in a lasting, beneficial way.
It forced Google to slash perks like extra snacks and daycare, and now Google employees aren’t nearly as entitled as they used to be.
They’re just happy to have a job — a job at one of the most ambitious companies in the country.
MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka transcribed Schmidt’s remarks at a press conference yesterday:
Google pays very well. Google is clearly a growth company, by any metric. And people at Google don’t work for those reasons at Google. We don’t want them to come to Google for those reasons. We want them to come to Google to change the world.
Life is short. And everybody here understands that. Life is short; you should work on the things that are most important. If you want to work on what Google is working on–cloud computing, search, all the things that we talk about all the time–then come to Google and we will pay you well.
That works. We don’t want a different workforce than the one that I just described.
And I would also answer the entitlement question, as I understood your question, as to say that the last year has been very good at solving that problem.
The tightening that [CFO] Patrick [Pichette] in particular did, who I think is the current Google hero, really did change the culture in a much more pragmatic way: “We’re happy to work here. We’re happy to be employed. We love what we’re doing. Our friends, you know, have been laid off.” It’s been a maturing process. And I think a generally good one.
Google (GOOG) cofounder Sergey Brin echoed the sentiment:
I do think there was a period of time where the culture, as it were, was misinterpreted. I certainly remember when we would start, when there were a few of us working in the garage, and occasionally [co-founder] Larry [Page] would rollerblade in with a few sandwiches for food. And that grew up into everybody’s expectation: “Oh, they should have all the gourmet food they want, at any time.”
I think it’s important to reset the culture from time to time. And I think several years ago we did that. Clearly, people had extrapolated from our past practices what the vision might be. And having actually been there, and knowing the rationale…we decided to, for example, we significantly cut down all the snacks that had been available. [laughter]
Google’s perks have always over-exaggerated, typically by Google PR in an effort to help the company find warm bodies. So will the company’s new tone affect recruiting?
One reader’s comments on Y-combinator’s Hacker News seems to suggest the answer could be yes:
In the end, it was inevitable. It was part of my reason to turn down their full-time offer and accept another company’s. Last summer when I was an intern at Google, free cookies at 3pm were discontinued. By the time I got back in June 2009, we didn’t even have a Tech Stop in my building anymore. No dance party, etc. Still, to me at least, this is not yet the time when Google became just another company. The stuff you learn there, the technology at your fingertips, and the capable co-workers are still amazing.
But it’s headed that way. In the next 5-10 years, I predict the following will happen to Google. Most of it is quite obvious: a. a major PR disaster, such as significant cloud data loss, or poor availability numbers for a day or week, something like that b. stock will not have the same phenomenal growth c. loss of search market share (of which a big deal will be made, but really, soon it will have nowhere to go, but down)
For me the deciding factors in choosing another offer were: a. bigger company size => little chance to “change the world” like Eric Schmidt still likes to say b. much better stock packages from my other options (Facebook’s was essentially 4 times Google’s at the latest valuation, and I do understand that’s because of the higher risk, but for a college grad, that should be a no-brainer). c. bonus perk I believe Google never had: 21 business days of vacation.
Another Y-combinator commenter, this one claiming to be Mountain View Googler, says all this talk of perks-slashing is a bit overblown.
The free snacks, drinks, food are most definitely NOT gone. Have there been some cut-backs? Sure. So now the perks are merely incredible instead of ridiculous-verging-on-embarassingly-good.
So yeah, the micro-kitchens now have ~75 types of snacks instead of 100+ and we are now limited to 40-ish types of free drinks in the cooler instead of twice that. And now we drink filtered water instead of Smart-Water. Life is hard ;-)
Also there are still fresh-made sandwiches, sushi and salads delivered to the kitchen every day and I can still walk to one of the dozen-plus cafes and get three hot meals, prepared fresh each day by talented chefs.
Oh – the article neglected to mention the fact that [Google CFO Patrick Pitchette’s] cost-cutting measured resulted in the annual bonus being paid out at over 100% this year, instead of the much lower amount that we were on target for before he showed up. So yeah – I would say a lot of people would consider Patrick to be a bit of a hero.