Book – Work Rules!

Work-RulesExcellent inside view on HR in one of the most interesting companies! This insight about recruiting, training, and value of good management is fantastic.  Though some of the conclusions seem common sense (of course, transparency is beneficial for business!), they were supported with data – Google is marvelous source of data 🙂

Note on motivation and productivity

fundsThree group of employees called potential donors and asked them to donate funds to a university.  The control group did not receive any additional information, group two read stories about the benefit that this job brought to the employees, and the group three read stories how scholarships resulting from the fundraising changed people’s lives.  As a result, group three increased donations over 100%, while there was no change in the performance of other two groups.

If reading about students who received scholarships was so effective, meeting scholarship recipients for five minutes and be able to ask questions increased fundraising effectiveness over 400% for the next month.  Having workers meet people they are helping is the best motivator. 

Value of employee freedom

Two identical plants making T-shirts were managed differently.  One was tightly managed and another one allowed more freedom for the employees.  The plant with more freedom had higher productivity and lower cost per T-shirt.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Approach to hiring and training (very interesting – and makes total sense!)

  • Google invests more into hiring than into training.  Google is very selective and prefers to take time in finding the right candidate rather than just hire anybody.  This approach is also described in Who – The A Method for Hiring book.  The philosophy is tested by sports teams – “hiring” the best athletes for the team increases chances of winning.

Unfortunately, many other companies put hiring managers in a sad situation when if the position is not filled quickly, the hiring manager would loose the position, and, in some cases, would be blamed for lack of capacity and expertise in the team. These companies will be easily out-competed by companies with policies similar to Google’s approach 🙂

  • Google invests more resources in recruiting, and “saves” resources on training – includes only training that truly change behavior and involves talented employees in giving training to their colleagues.
  • Limitation of manager’s power on hiring decisions – hiring by a committee
  • Google had a hiring process that took too many interviews, took too much time from the company and was exhausting from the perspective of the candidates.  Google used data to determine the optimal number of interviews, and to increase experience for even rejected candidates.  As a result, the number of rejected candidates who would recommend applying to google to their friends increased dramatically.
  • Google tried and rejected some unusual ways of trying to find good candidates, such as cryptic billboard


Google did not hire anybody based on the effort.  People who could solve the puzzle (not that many), may be specialists in very narrow fields, and may not be able to work in the team environment Google requires.


Google evaluated managers and determined that good managers do matter, and people are less likely to leave the company if they have good managers (moving from a good manager to a bad one and the other way around influences the employee’s happiness and propensity to leave based on manager’s quality).  Google decided to understand what good management is, and Project Oxygen gave the answers.

  1. ManagerBe a good coach.
  2. Empower; don’t micromanage.
  3. Be interested in direct reports, success and well-being.
  4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.
  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.
  6. Help your employees with career development.
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  8. Have key technical skills so you can advise the team.

Interesting point: the book highlights that technical skills are mandatory, as if the manager can not code, he or she will not be taken seriously by the team. However, the other points are more important for good managers, who already passed the technical knowledge bar.

Google does help managers to improve – managers are evaluated by their teams (wow!) as managers.  However, Google HR divorces developmental and evaluation feedback – this is necessary to assure that people won’t try to game the system and will truly be interested in feedback.

Google has a great manager award, but the condition of winning the award is training others.   🙂

Awards and recognition

The author suggests “paying unfairly” – disregarding the restrictions of pay grades and increasing compensation for more productive employees.

Google had a significant cash award system for remarkable projects…  what made everybody unhappy.

  • some non-engineering functions could not possibly be included
  • some projects would be unlikely to be included (not critical projects)
  • some awards were rather small – people were disappointed
  • some people participated in the multi-year projects partially, and could be included or excluded from the award arbitrarily
  • even winners of significant awards were not happy  – they realized that their group would not be eligible for the award next time and tried to switch teams

awardGoogle also experimented with determining which types of awards would give employees more “happiness.”  If asked, majority of employees preferred cash.  However, “experience” awards, such as a trip for the team to Hawaii, generated more “happiness” even months later, and, in some cases, the perception of the award were even more positive months after the award was given.


Google opens more information to its employees than other companies to achieve business benefits and suffers about one leak per year.  However, the cost of leaks is smaller than the openness all enjoy.

Treating your people well is the mean to the end and an end in itself

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