“Building an exceptional team or institution starts with a founder. But being a founder doesn’t mean starting a new company. It is within anyone’s grasp to be the founder and culture-creator of their own team, whether you are the first employee or joining a company that has existed for decades.” ―says Laszlo Bock in the book Work Rules explaining why hiring is the single most important people activity at Google, and the book delves into unconventional and effective approaches that the company has developed and applied to make work meaningful, and people happy.
For example, At Google, there is a strong effort to prevent toxic internal politics. Laszlo recalls a memory from his early days at Google when he had complained about someone to his manager, and the manager promptly CCed that person so they could deal with their conflict directly. It was an unusual lesson in the importance of having a direct conversation with his colleagues. Work Rules is seen as one of the best books on company culture and hiring practices with a lot of practical and actionable advice included. The main synopsis from this book is that the more you apply scientific models to study human performance, the more you understand the fact that it is the Human part of management that makes the difference.
Some of the valuable insights in this book that truly are a treasure are:
- Hire the best- There are two ways to hire an exceptional employee, hire the best or train the average. Google tends to do the former. The average company spends around $600 for training and $450 for hiring, according to the Corporate Executive Board. Instead of using the money for training resources, utilize that money and invest it in recruiting the best employees.
- Hierarchy - Keep minimum hierarchy to have more transparency in the organization. There are only four levels of hierarchy across all of the Google employees: individual contributor, manager, director, and vice president. Employees at Google are encouraged to lead and influence through inspiration. .Don’t politick. Use data.” This motto helps things stay transparent and also helps address potentially sensitive topics when damaging rumors may be involved.
- Promotion of Innovation - Innovation means delving into the future and taking a calculated risk. It is a crucial part of any organization. Google announced a real-time collaboration tool called Google Wave in 2009. The team that worked on it decided to forgo their bonuses for two years in favor of the possibility of higher wages if the program succeeded. Even if they failed, Google rewarded the team, anyway, because people should be rewarded for taking calculated risks.
- Rewards - Instead of awarding employees with monetary benefits, bestow them with experiences like a team dinner or a trip to Paris. Google established its Founders Award for performance in 2004. In the award’s first year, Google awarded a $12 million split between two teams and $45 million divided among eleven teams the latter year. However, internal surveys showed that this didn’t bring more happiness among employees, but the good experience did.
- Employee Performance - Instead of studying worst or poor performers, companies should analyze their best performers as those are the people who are familiar with and successful at the company’s practices. But the major problem that is generated in employee performance is that they have become substitutes for the vital act of actually managing people. The best and worst performers both make up the minority, and the majority of the employees are the average performers. So most companies fire their poor performer in favor of hiring new employees, but this extra training will not even guarantee higher performance than the previously fired employees. Boris Groysberg, a Harvard professor, has research that shows performing thoroughly is dependent on context, so you must study your own employees rather than the structures of other corporations. Google started an internal research team called PiLab or People and Innovation Lab to analyze their top performers. And in this manner Google’s fabulous Project Oxygen came into the picture.
- Project Oxygen - "Employees leave managers not companies." Google started studying management extensively. They wanted to know the difference between their good and bad managers. They found a series of key behaviors that were important for good performance and this led to the reported findings that found eight principal attributes of good managers:
- 1. Be a good coach. 2. Empower the team and do not micromanage. 3. Express interest/concern for team members’ success and personal well-being. 4. Be very productive/results-oriented. 5. Be a good communicator – listen and share information. 6. Help the team with career development. 7. Have a clear vision/strategy for the team. 8. Have important technical skills that help advise the team.
Managers are not expected to follow all of those right away. So Google has developed a distinctive survey which they use twice a year to allow team members to evaluate their managers against those eight areas. These surveys help managers to sit down with their teams and address those issues. The result was astonishing. Overall manager scores went up from 83 percent to 88 percent favorable, and their worst managers rose from 70 percent to 77 percent favorable. As Bock put it, “It’s actually become harder to be a bad manager.”