This week I’m reading the new book from Laszlo Bock, Google’s head of People Operations, called “Work Rules!.” Despite the stereotypes about Google there is actually a lot of good information in this book.
I’m half way through the book and despite the “only at Google” moments I think there is some great information here for any HR practitioner or leader. Below are some ideas you can use to challenge yourself and your team:
1. Directly connect people (especially those that do not deal directly with customers) to the business and in the process show them how they impact the business. What better way to drive engagement than to show people how their job impacts the big picture? At Google they make it a point to show their online ad sales people how their ads have helped small business customers. These employees typically spent all day online and rarely heard about how ad sales helped small businesses. Once they realized the impact they were having the salespeople were thrilled and inspired. Everyone in your company impacts the business, how difficult can it be to illustrate that?
2. Take a data based approach to hiring strategy. Bock lays out some interesting data on two different views on hiring: buying the best talent or identifying great talent and coaching and training them into the best talent. For Google, the solution is to spend money up front on attracting, assessing and cultivating (sourcing) new hires. In his view if you have a massive training budget its because you didn’t hire the right people to begin with. I’m not saying this is a strategy you should apply but it certainly upends many company “strategies.”
I like this challenge to traditional hiring practices and you should at least think about how different your organization would be if you weren’t always looking for a bargain hire and instead focused on hiring the top performers.
3. Hire slowly and try different approaches. Bock goes into great detail on the evolution of the hiring process at Google. From using billboard puzzles (didn’t work) to staffing firms, to requesting SAT scores, the People Operations team at Google has not been afraid to try different things. Underlying what can be a lengthy process is a critical belief: hiring slowly benefits the company because it reduces the risk of Google making a bad hire that negatively affects the team. My takeaways: keep trying different methods and track their usefulness. Remember that a toxic hire can have a terrible impact on the team, if you aren’t satisfied with your current slate of hires, slow down and take your time.
4. What is your staffing team focusing on? Screening resumes and scheduling interviews? Or an in-house staffing firm dedicated to cultivating relationships and finding the best candidates? Again, I’m not saying that the Google model is the answer but the idea is to take a look at your current model and challenge yourself. How well do those outside staffing firms really understand your company? What could you do if you took the money you spent on staffing firms and instead spent it on an excellent recruiter?
5. Your best teachers already work for you. Why are you paying for sales training when you already have great sales people that can teach the rest? Bock lays out a great case for utilizing your existing high performers for training opportunities and includes ways to combat resistance you might get. Bock doesn’t argue against using formal training but he believes the best trainers are those that are on the inside of your organization.
None of the above is really revolutionary (the revolutionary people work at Google is a whole other series of blog posts) but I tell you about it to emphasize that Google starts with some very basic ideas. Hire good talent. Strive to maintain your culture. Challenge your HR team. Look at core HR processes differently.
I love the emphasis on culture but I’m also concerned about creating a culture that is too insular. Yes, we want to hire good people that fit but at what point does “fit” become “just like me?” I love the idea of using your best salespeople to train but that assumes your salespeople are the ideal salespeople. I hope that Bock tackles these concerns later in the book.
Check back next week for my final review on Work Rules!