It’s no secret that Google is one of the world’s toughest companies to land a job at. It has also garnered a reputation worldwide as being one of the coolest companies to work for. Coincidence? I think not. Enter the Google company culture.
The Google Company Culture
One of the reasons why so many people long to work for Google is because of its unique company culture. The corporate tech giant is famous for treating its employees like gold and providing them with innumerable perks in a laid-back, fun work environment. Unlimited free gourmet food and snacks; complementary massages; on-site daycares; and free fitness classes and gym memberships are just a few of the many benefits offered to Google employees—or “Googlers” as they are called.
Given such an enviable work culture, it’s no wonder that people around the world vie for positions at Google. This leaves Google in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose only the brightest minds. In a nutshell, its awesome company culture attracts top talent and leads to happy employees. Happy employees translate to higher productivity and less turnover. Which ultimately leads to higher profit and greater overall success for Google.
Moreover, Google leaders recognize that company culture is not about the mission statement or how much revenue was brought in in the past year. They understand that it’s not even about that ping-pong table in the break room or the fancy nook areas sprinkled throughout the office.
It’s about the values held dear by the company and its employees. It’s about how friendly and fun the work environment is. Above all else, it’s about how team members treat one another and how the management treats employees.
On that note, here are some things that every company can learn from Google’s workplace culture.
1. Define Core Values
On their webpage, “Ten things we know to be true,” Google lists its long-held values—which were written just a few years after the company was founded. My guess is that Googlers have hired, and continue to hire, individuals who share those same values.
First and foremost, spell out your company’s core values to all employees to make sure that everyone is on the same page. This can help set some parameters to measure both individual and company success. Then when hiring, discuss your company’s core values with candidates and ask questions that will help determine if the candidates share those values.
At SUCCESS agency, we discuss our core values on a regular basis. Team members are encouraged to bring up our core values in group discussion or chat, whenever relevant. One of our core values is always growing. One way that we ensure we are always growing is through what we call “intentional learning,” in which each team member must devote one hour per week to learning something new. Then, each Thursday, we have what we call “Thirsty Thursday,” where everyone can share something valuable that they learned that week with the rest of the team.
2. Hire Based on Character, Not Skill-Set
As of July 2015, it was reported that Google receives around three million job applications per year, on average, and only hires around 7,000 of those applicants. So what does this mega selective company look for in its candidates? In his book, Work Rules, Laszlo Bock explains that they search for people who are fun, intellectually humble, conscientious and comfortable dealing with the unknown. Of the many things that they look for, Google also looks for work ethic more than IQ level. Perhaps surprisingly, they do not really care about GPAs.
Remember that skills can be taught. Character, generally, cannot. So find employees that embody the characteristics and values that are most important to you and your company.
3. Don’t Be a Copycat
Google allows its employees to bring their dogs to work. Is this normal for such a massive organization? Certainly not. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.
A forward-thinking, innovative mentality is essential to business growth and longevity. So don’t just copy what other companies do. Try things out. Determine what works best for your business and what type of culture will make your employees happiest.
4. Embrace Transparency
At Google, employees are encouraged to ask questions and speak their minds. According to one Googler, “My mentor created psychological safety for me on my first day when he said, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions—you don’t have to impress me. You already have, and that’s why I hired you.”
Strive to establish and maintain a culture of open and honest communication. Provide and seek constructive feedback on a regular basis. Instead of guessing, ask questions if you are unsure about something. Not happy with a colleague or a situation? Speak up. Make a big mistake? Instead of hiding the evidence or shifting the blame, own up to it.
Transparency from the top to the bottom is key to any successful business.
CEOs and leaders should not be afraid to admit when they are wrong—or if they don’t know the answer to something. Being a great leader is, in large part, about honesty and humility. And the more honest a leader is, the more trust and loyalty employees will have in both the leader and the company. The trickle effect is also very powerful. If leaders of a company are transparent, more likely than not, their subordinates will be, as well.
5. Allow for Some Fun
Between Google’s volleyball courts, basketball courts and bowling alleys, there is never a shortage of activities for employees to engage in outside of the office. But don’t be fooled—there are ways to create a great company culture without spending a ton of money or supplying lots of cool gadgets.
If you’re location-based, this could be designating one room as the “play room,” filled with comfortable chairs, books, board games and the like. You could also hold monthly office competitions. Get your team outside of the office every now and then and go on a hike—or maybe hold a scavenger hunt downtown.
If you’re a remote-based team, you will obviously have to find more intangible ways to have a good time. It could be as simple as taking some time out from a video meeting to discuss everyone’s favorite TV shows or books. At SUCCESS agency, the messaging application, Slack, is our virtual office, where we will occasionally share photos of our daily lives and funny GIFs with one another throughout the day.
Another remote-based team, WAYGO, has mid-week “happy hours,” where employees will get together via video chat and discuss things unrelated to work—often with a beverage in hand, of course!
The point is not what you do or where you do it—what matters is that team members get to know one another, and bond, outside of the office setting. The better that team members get along with one another, the happier and more productive they will be when they are at work.
6. Create Shared Leadership
Google is also known for its start-up mentality and flat organizational structure, which means that there are few or no levels of middle management. In other words, despite it’s massive size, all employees have the opportunity to lead.
Create shared leadership at your company by letting each team member take initiative and be a leader, even if it’s just once a month. In meetings, people in upper management roles should not be the only ones talking. Make sure that everyone has a chance to contribute.
Here at SUCCESS agency, we ensure shared leadership through what we call “Value Adds.” Through a presentation given once a month, one designated team member shares something of value with the rest of the team.
7. Be Open to Change
The flat organizational structure that Google is renowned for encourages all employees to speak up and vocalize their points of view. This means that if a lower-level employee has an opinion about something, he or she can bypass middle management and go straight to the CEO.
Of course not every company has to adopt the same organizational structure. What matters is remaining open to change, however that may be. Once a company becomes set in its ways, it is much harder to make amendments and evolve down the line.
Allow your business to prosper by prioritizing the continual advancement of your company and employees. As a leader, this means not only being open to new ideas, but also encouraging them. It means examining the processes and procedures that are currently in place and wondering how they can be improved upon. And as an employee, this means not being afraid to make your voice heard.
As Larry Page himself said, at the end of the day, “it’s important that the company be a family, that people feel that they’re part of the company, and that the company is like a family to them. When you treat people that way, you get better productivity.” And success.
Thank you, Google, for sharing the Google company culture.