Google’s company culture is almost always mentioned when people talk about a great working environment. It’s often one of the major reasons people want to work at Google to begin with. Well, that and the fact that it’s one of the biggest, most influential companies in the world.
However, while we do hear a lot about its culture, people often don’t know why or how Google achieved it. After all, that’s the secret behind better productivity, creativity, and improved employee engagement.
What's so great about Google
World-class company culture has been a key part of Google's employer brand for years. In fact, Google earned 15 awards from Comparably in 2019 alone, including the Best Company Culture, Best CEO, and Best Company for Women awards.
Comparably reveals company cultures and market compensation, showcasing the fairest and most accurate displays of employer brands.
Google is also a consistent top-ranking company in Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For list and is featured in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list every year.
Meanwhile, you’ve probably also heard about the free food, state-of-the-art nap pods, video game stations, and of course, the slides. If you’ve ever seen the Googleplex in California—whether you’ve stepped foot inside it or have seen a video tour of it—you might think of the office as an adult playground rather than a workplace.
While all these bells and whistles may shout uniqueness, they’re only a small part of what Google’s company culture is all about. There are also technologic, philosophical, and organizational values involved, among other things, that play a massive role in the culture’s success.
To give you a better idea of what we’re talking about, here are 10 great examples of Google’s company culture and why other companies should learn from them.
10 Reasons Why Google’s Company Culture Works
The Google company culture didn’t come into existence overnight. It took years of refinement and the efforts of both the company and its employees.
However, to summarize all of their efforts, here are 10 reasons why Google’s company culture works today.
1. Built on Data
(Image Source: Freepik)
Since the company’s inception, Google has based most of its decisions on data. In every choice they make, whether big or small, qualitative and quantitative data are considered in the decision-making process.
Even if it’s a matter of setting up workplace rules, actual data is used to make every single rule and process as streamlined as possible.
For example, how long are you willing to wait in line for lunch? Google knows, and they optimize their dining around that.
As an example of data-backed decisions, Google performed studies to conclude that the optimal time for people to stand in line waiting for lunch is about three to four minutes. Any longer and the person in line is wasting precious time. Additionally, if that waiting time is any shorter, that person won’t be able to make meaningful dialogue with others in the line.
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Google has also performed studies to find out how much paid time off new mothers need, what the best way to launch an employee engagement strategy is, and more—all to figure out how they could build a better culture.
2. Fun Work Environment
(Image Source: Google)
Google is known for making the workplace feel like more than just work. In a world where cubicles and boring work environments are common—this is a difficult reputation to achieve.
However, regardless of working longer hours and even weekends, employees at Google still claim to truly enjoy going to work.
The workplace as we know it has been long overdue for a change, and Google appears to have come up with the perfect solution, leading with data and innovation.
Instead of employees having to go elsewhere for lunch, fun, and relaxation, they can find everything they need right in the workplace. The following are just some of the perks Google provides at no cost:
- Employees can get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
- The company provides in-house basic health and dental checkups.
- You can also get haircuts from professional hairdressers.
- There’s unlimited dry cleaning available.
- You can get massages from professional masseurs.
- You have access to top-of-the-line gyms and swimming pools.
- You can catch up on sleep with in-house nap pods.
- You’ll find several video game stations across Google offices.
- Table sports such as foosball and table tennis are there, too.
There are a lot of other perks offered alongside these ones, depending on which Google office you work at. While these perks may incur massive overhead costs to the company, it’s nothing compared to the money saved from reducing employee turnover.
3. Encourages Creativity
(Image Source: Google)
Google is a firm believer in the notion that, happier employees are more productive and creative. Therefore, Google strives to create an environment where employees are free to express their creativity, whether by offering new solutions for the same problems or simply in the way they work.
In fact, Google encourages autonomy. Googlers (nomenclature for Google employees) are encouraged to work in any environment they please, which means they aren’t restricted to a cubicle with gray walls and dim lighting.
Instead, employees can decide to work in lounge areas, the cafeteria, in beanbag chairs, or anywhere else. Wherever employees can focus and perform their best is where Google wants them to be.
Seeking to hire creative talent, Google isn’t any different from other companies. However, instead of only considering a candidate’s professional background, they seek to hire those who are naturally curious and have a passion for learning.
The interview process is designed to allow Google interviewers to gauge whether a candidate is fun, self-driven, outspoken, and if they work well with a team. As more and more creative talent is hired, the company culture and creativity in the workplace only increases.
4. Hires for Character and Skills
On average, Google receives around 2 million job applications per year. The sheer number of CVs, resumes, and cover letters show the power of Google’s company culture.
However, the company hires less than one percent of those applicants—about 7,000 or so on average. Most of the applications and resumes fail the “six-second test” where recruiters only take about six seconds to skim through resumes to see if they are impressed by something.
Google’s hiring process, while rigorous, is very effective in finding not only the best talent, but also people with great character and drive.
While it’s necessary to hire the right skill sets that align with the existing company culture, Google places a huge emphasis on a candidate’s character as well, searching for people who are fun, humble, innovative, and team-oriented, yet self-starting. While skills like design and coding can be taught, character and other soft skills cannot.
5. People Operations: Happiness is a Science
Just like any other large company, Google has a massive human resources (HR) department but they refer to it as “People Operations.” People Operations are where raw science and HR intersect—and it’s what keeps Google a top-performing company.
Whereas most HR departments are reactive, the People Operations (or POPS for short) department of Google employs a proactive approach.
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Google’s People Operations, like all other departments, is reliant on studies and data.
For example, a few years ago, Google noticed that they had a high turnover rate for women. While trying to reduce this turnover, research found that high turnover wasn’t associated with all women—just new mothers. As a solution, Google started offering 18 weeks of paid maternity leave.
6. Open Communication Policy
(Image Source: Pexels)
Google’s has a flat organizational structure, thus encouraging all employees to share their voice. A flat organizational structure is one that allows communication between employees of any level. This means that a lower-level employee can share their opinion or concern directly with the CEO—without any pushback from their direct manager.
This open communication policy means it’s an open-door policy, too. And while it may be a successful employer engagement tactic for most companies, keep in mind that it could also limit an employee’s eagerness and ability to voice their opinions.
The option to speak up is always there. But there could be fear of repercussions, no incentive for providing feedback, or no system in place to see any movement on the solution to a problem.
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In Google’s case, company culture starts with hiring employees who are eager to share ideas and collaborate. They then allow their employees the freedom to do so in the workplace, whether with fellow employees or the CEO.
Furthermore, employees at manager-level positions are taught the rules of great leadership so they can foster the same values in their employees. This Beginner's Guide to Great Leadership provides a summary of all those values.
7. Communicates Core Values Clearly
One of the biggest reasons Google continues to be an innovator and leader in their industry is that they have a clear idea of their values and goals. In fact, they have a web page, “Ten things we know to be true”, where they list their core values.
The following are 10 of their core values, explained in further detail on their page.
- Focus on the user and all else will follow.
- It’s best to do one thing well.
- Fast is better than slow.
- Democracy on the web works.
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
- You can make money without doing evil.
- There’s always more information out there.
- The need for information crosses all borders.
- You can be serious without a suit.
- Great just isn’t good enough.
By having a clear understanding of their core values, Google can continue to hire people who share the same values or show the eagerness to learn those values, ensuring that only like-minded people work at the company.
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8. Innovation is Prioritized
Ultimately, company culture and innovation can’t be separated. “You have to have the culture,” says Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, “and you need to get it right.” However, Google also believes that to stay competitive, companies must innovate.
Google promotes innovation in the workplace in several ways:
- Google’s thorough and comprehensive hiring process enables them to find the most innovative minds in the market.
- Google constantly holds sessions and pep talks where they encourage employees to think outside the box, release their creativity, and provide innovative ideas.
- The company encourages the use of as many resources as needed to come up with new ideas and solutions.
Furthermore, the company rewards employees who provide innovative ideas and solutions. There are always incentives behind creative thinking—essentially creating an environment of fresh ideas and constant brainstorming.
9. Financial Support for Employees
Google doesn’t only pay its employees well. They also provide them with personal finance assistance to ensure they stay in good financial health while getting what they want and need.
The company understands that not everyone has a strong grasp of finances and that a lack of financial education may lead to debt and other issues which may lead to financial hardship.
That is why Googlers have access to on-site financial advisors and planners that assist with debt, investing, and tax-related issues, among other things.
10. Mobility Within the Company
A lot of people make career changes or opt for different job descriptions while working. Professional career mobility is something that most companies avoid providing because it can entail additional training, recruitment, and drag in the business process.
However, Google encourages mobility within the company so that employees can work on their strengths and weaknesses. The idea is to provide employees with the exact job they want and then help them with the transition.
It’s a great way to retain employees as such leeway is not common in most companies. Furthermore, it also saves on some onboarding and recruitment costs.
Google’s company culture is revered across the world for several reasons—the full extent of which can hardly fit in one blog post. After all, Google has cracked the code to turning employees into brand ambassadors.
However, there is no secret formula or complicated strategy behind it. It’s all about giving back to the employees, taking care of them as much as you can, and giving them a reason to love your company.
If you want to start, you should do so by developing better relationships among your teams. Once you’ve cultivated more camaraderie, you can then move on to building your company culture.
To help you get started on that journey, here are some team-building activities that will get you moving in the right direction.