Behind each of Google’s iconic products are some of the most brilliant people on the planet. Their perennial dominance leaves no question that their greatest asset really is their people! But how do they continually hire the best? What’s their secret?
Fortunately, we no longer have to guess. Thanks to two incredible new books, one by their Executive Chairman, Erich Schmidt, called How Google Works, and the other by their former SVP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, called Work Rules! (Note: this is by far the greatest book on HR/Talent I’ve ever read), we now have a very detailed understanding of the magic behind Google’s hiring practices.
Thus, over the course of several articles, we’ll dissect each part of Google’s recruiting process and discover what makes it so extraordinary!
To start, we’ll highlight the three overarching principles that define their culture: mission, transparency, and voice.
Google’s mission is purposefully simple, broad, and absent of commonly used corporate jargon: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Notice how there is no mention of shareholders, profits, or customers. Instead, it’s focused on something much more universal and enduring, something moral, rather than economic. This gives Googlers’ work intrinsic meaning and significance, which spurs motivation and perseverance. Co-founder, Sergey Brin, summarizes it this way: “talented people are attracted to Google because we empower them to change the world.”
Google’s mission is also impossible to achieve. There will always be more information to be organized and new ways to make it accessible. Thus, Google believes that a good mission statement serves as a compass, not a destination. It continually inspires employees to press in, never settle, and always keep creating.
At Google, nearly everything is open for observation, questioning, and debate. Transparency is paramount! For example, consider how their code base – the collection of all their source code – is shared with every employee, even those on their first day. They also release the details of every company project and its results, invite anyone to ask questions directly of the CEO, and share the same presentation used at Board meetings with every team member.
The reasons for having this radically transparent workplace are many: it reduces duplication across the organization, increases accountability, drives healthy competition, and communicates to employees that they are valued and trusted. Collectively, these outcomes significantly strengthen engagement and overall performance.
Google believes that every employee is brilliant and has valuable ideas to contribute. They think that everyone should have a voice about how things are run. This is a dramatic turn from the bureaucratic cultures so dominant across corporate America where significant strategic decisions are exclusively reserved for senior leaders.
In practice, having a voice means that hiring decisions are made by committees (more on that in Step 4), managers are reviewed by employees, people can move to new teams to pursue projects that they’re more passionate about, and everyone is invited to weigh in on how to improve processes and culture, to name a few examples.
Yet, giving every Googler a voice is more than just the right thing to do; it’s also highly pragmatic. In a hyper-competitive market where the world’s most gifted people are being pursued by multiple companies simultaneously, firms that give their employees an opportunity to shape the destiny of their organizations have a distinct competitive advantage.
With this in mind, leaders that are focused on re-vamping their recruiting efforts should begin by ensuring that they have a clear, simple and inspiring mission, a culture of transparency, and an environment where everyone has a voice. This is the first step to world-class hiring!