Fortune magazine recently named Google the best of top 100 companies to work for, and there’s little doubt why. Among the benefits they offer are free shuttles equipped with Wi-Fi to pick up and drop off employees in the San Francisco Bay area. Free gourmet meals, five free on-site doctors, free flu shots, unlimited sick days, a US $2,000 bonus for referring a new hire, on-site car wash and oil change, free on-site laundry machines (with free detergent), a giant lap pool, volleyball courts, ping-pong and football tables, TGIF parties, annual all-expenses-paid ski trips, and free lectures from famous people. For many, it’s the gourmet meals and snacks that make Google stand out. For example, HR director Stacy Sullivan loves the Irish oatmeal with fresh berries at the company’s Plymouth Rock café, near Google’s people operations’ group. “ I someone dream about it,” she says. Engineer Jan Fitzpatrick loves the raw bar at Google’s Tapas restaurant on the Google campus. Then, of course there are the stock options- each new employees gets about 1,200 options to buy Google shares (recently worth about US $480 per share). In fact, dozens of early Google employees (Googlers) are already multimillionaires thanks to Google stock.
For their part, Googlers share certain traits. They tend to be brilliant, team oriented (teamwork in the norm, especially for big projects), and driven. Fortune describes them as people who ‘almost universally’ see themselves as the most interesting people on the planet are happy-go-lucky on the outside, but type A-highly intense and goal directed-on the inside. They’re also super-hardworking, (which makes sense, since it’s unusual for engineers to be in the hallways at 3 a.m. debating some new mathematical solution to a Google search problem). They’re so team oriented that when working on projects, it’s not unusual for a Google team to give up its larger, more spacious offices and to crowd into a small conference room, where they can ‘get things done’. Historically, Googlers generally graduate with great grades from the best universities, including Stanford, Harvard, and MIT. For many years,Google wouldn’t even consider hiring someone with less than a 3.7 average- while also probing deeply into the why behind any B grades. Google also doesn’t hire lone workers, but wants people who work together and people who also have diverse interests (narrow interests or skills are a turnoff at Google). Google also wants people with growth potential. The company is expanding so fast that they need to hire people who are capable of being promoted five or six times-it’s only, they say, by hiring such overqualified people that they can be sure employers will be able to keep up as Google and their own departments expand.
The starting salaries are highly competitive. Experienced engineers start at about $130,000 a year (plus about 1,200 shares of stock options, as noted), and new MBA’s can expect between $80,000 and $120,000 per year (with smaller option grants). Most recently, Google had about 10.000 staff members, up from its start a few years ago with just three employees in a rented garage.
Of course, in a company that’s grown from three employees to 10,000 and from zero value to hundreds of billions of dollars in about five years, it may be quibbling to talk about ‘problems,’ but there’s no doubt that such rapid growth does confront Google’s management, and particularly its ‘people operations’ group, with some big challenges.
For one. As noted above, Google is 24-hour operation, and with engineers and other frequently pulling all-nighters to complete their projects, the company needs to provide a package of services and financial benefits that supports that kind of lifestyle, and helps its employees maintain an acceptable work-life balance.
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Google’s new head of human resources, a former GE executive, says that Google is trying to strike the right balance between letting Google and the candidate get to know each other and also moving quickly. To that end, Google recently administered a survey to all Google’s current employees, in an effort to identify the traits that correlate with success at Google. In the survey, employees had to respond to questions relating to about 300 variables, including their performance on standardized tests, how old they were when they first used a computer, and how many foreign languages they speak. The Google survey team they went back and compared the answers against the 30 to 40 job performance factors they keep for each employee. They thereby identified clusters of traits that Google might better focus on during the hiring process. Google is also trying to move from the free-from interviews they’ve had in the past to a more structured process.
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