Google is a highly successful company in the recent decades, whereby the innovations created by Google had effectively changed the world in many ways. The are many factors leading to the success of Google, and one of the most critical success factors is the power of the people management in the company. With the ability to manage talented, aggressive and creative individuals, Google able to growth by leaps and bounds to become the industry leader in the Internet industry. That makes Google an ideal candidate for researchers dealing with the subject of organizational behaviors or human resources management to study and investigate in details. In this paper, two key aspect of Google will be discussed. Firstly, the methods used to managing stress in Google will be discussed. Then, the special and yet innovative culture of Google will be analyzed, in order to understand how the special culture of Google can lead the company to become industry leader in such a fast pace.
In the fast changing, dynamic and ever challenging business environment, workforce around the world is constantly facing stressful working environment and demands. This is particularly true for firm operating in the technological related sector, whereby workforce is required to keep up with the pace of technological evolution, while to work hard in handling challenges from the competitors (Dessler, 2011). The negative impacts due to stress are serious and significant. In the organizational context, excessive stress may cause the workforce to fall sick often, to become less efficient, performing poorly, facing deterioration of inter-personal relationship with others, more prone to accidents as well as to engage in serious absenteeism and eventually resign from the job (Wilson, 2004; Beardwell & Clayton, 2007).
Different researchers tend to have different definition on stress. However, one of the widely adopted definitions is from Cartwright and Cooper (1997). According to them, stress is the forces that exert psychological as well as physical function beyond its range of stability. To be more precise, stress might occur due to the interaction between an individual with the environment. Technically speaking, subjecting to the perceptions of the events occurring in the environment, the particular stimulus from the external events may trigger stress within a person (Briscoe et. al., 2004).
As mentioned before, stress can cause serious issues and harms to the individual experiencing stresses as well as to the organization. However, stress is a very common phenomenon occurring in workplace. Many issues can trigger stress among an employee. For example, the change of new technology, the ever demanding task, customer complaints, uncertainty in work roles and responsibilities, bad relationships at work, lost of vision and passion in job, improper and badly designed organizational structure, unsatisfied with the monetary and reward system implemented by the management, excessive request from management, workplace harassment, and threats of retrenchment. The list can be very long, and depending on the psychological conditions of the worker, he may suffer badly from excessive stress. Those stressful employees can then become harmful to the other staffs in the workplace, the organization, or even to the society. Thus, proper methods to handle employee stresses are crucial (Budhwar, 2004).
A review of the literature found that many techniques are available to reduce or mitigate stresses in workplace. Both individuals and organization have the respective roles to deal with stress (Price, 2007). For the organization, it is crucial to provide flexible and limited work time for the employees. Such a policy will enable work-life balance among the workforce, and to reduce the possibilities that the workforce became overworked and burn out. Besides, management can also implement work sharing, by splitting a career position between two or more people, so that the workforce will experience less time-base stress between work and family (Beardwell & Clayton, 2007). With such arrangement, workers can work on different parts of the week, and the workload and urgency matters from work faced by them can be reduced. Besides, company can also provide telecommuting convenient to workers (Budhwar, 2004). Workers may need to leave the office, or to take care of children from home, and thus telecommuting reduces the stress due to the need to reporting to office on time. Not only that, some company even offer child care support. Child care supports are argued to be effective as many of the employees will not need to rush off to take care of their children, and become less worried about their children during working hours. It is also good for company to provide sport facilities, so that the workforce can exercise to reduce stress faced in workplace. Not only that, management can also organize stress awareness program to train the workforce how to deal with stress properly. In some instances, job redesign will be necessary. This happen when a job can be too demanding and the person handling the job is overloaded (Wilson, 2004).
In the study of organizational behavior, organization culture is an important topic, as it is often argued and found that organizational culture has direct influences and linkages to the performance of a firm. To begin, one of the widely adopted definition of organizational culture is proposed by Schein (1990), whereby organizational culture is defined as ‘the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization, that operate unconsciously, and that define in a basic “take for granted” fashion and organization’s view of itself and its environment.’(Robbins, 2005; Beardwell & Clayton, 2007)
Following such a definition, culture is made up of several basic assumptions, which are often unconscious, and that basic assumptions will form the values of the organization, and represent itself as visible indicators in a particular organization. There are several manners on which an organizational culture can be observed and deciphered. To understand the culture of an organization, we can look at the following: architecture, artifacts, rituals, ceremonies, communication system, stories, control systems, behavioral norms, mottoes, slogans, power structure and documentations (Legge, 2004).
In several researches, strong culture is argued as the contributor of successes of high performing firm. This is not hard to understand, as many high performing and profitable firms tend to have strong and distinctive culture, which is contrast to the industry norms, and with that culture, lead the people in the organization to behave differently, and in turn contributing to the high performance and growth of a firm. In contrast, many of the slow growth or financially troubled firms have less vivid culture, whereby the employees are observed not to act in a certain way, in a particular spirit or passion towards achievement of the organizational mission (Beardwell & Clayton, 2007; Wilson, 2004).
There are several ways to strengthen an organizational culture. According to McShane and Von Glinow (2010), four key strategies to change or strengthen an organizational culture include: (a) to shape culture through the actions and personality of the founder, (b) creating or altering artifacts (such as stories, behaviors of management, reward system, and company policies), (c) introducing culturally consistent reward, and to attract, select and orientate the newly hire employees.
Google is a leading company in the Internet industry, and thus the employees are facing great challenges daily to innovate, being creative and to work hard so that Google can stay competitive and maintain its leadership position. It is found that Google utilized several methods to manage the stress level of employees. All of these methods are discussed as follow.
Providing a fun to work environment. In Google, fun and enjoyable activities are available for the employees. For example, employees can relax, listen to music, doing their hobbies, and etc during working hours. Such a fun environment is not only motivating, it able to reduce the stress faced by employees significantly. This is consistent to what is proposed by theories, whereby flexible workplace can reduce the stress level faced by employees. With a fun workplace, the focus of employees are diverted away from the problems, instead they view the problem as a challenge to be solve, and may feel fulfilled by solving these challenging tasks in the workplace.
Flexible working environment. In Google, workforce enjoys a large degree of flexibility. There are no specified or formal uniform to be worn by employees. By avoiding the need to be rigid, formal and always abide by the rules, employees working in Google can avoid unnecessary stress due to non-value adding activities, demand or policies. Instead, they can focus better on their work, being creative and solving the critical problems arises in workplace. Such a flexible working environment also ensures the working atmosphere is relaxed, not tensioned and stressful.
Provide sport facilities. Gym (ranging from various fitness facilities, weight lifting to light execise equipments) is available to the usage of employees in Google. It is stated that Google cares about the health of the mind and body of the employees, and thus provides sport facilities for the employees. Consistent with theories, providing sport equipments and facilities able to encourage the employees to exercise, and through exercising, employees can relax their mind, feel refreshed and take the time to take care of their personal health. With this, they may be able to perform better the next day, and their work performance can be more sustainable, when stress is managed properly and channeled away through exercises.
Helping the employees to relax. In Google, employees can get a massage service prepared by the firm. Besides, the corporate designs, workplace arrangement and the various playful facilities in Google able to provide an extremely relaxed workplace for the workforce. To provide massage facilities and services is indeed an outstanding innovation by Google in managing employees’ stress. Such a strategy needs little explanation, as everyone understand the refreshing effects from a massage after a day of tired work.
Encouraging the employees to bring their hobbies and even pets to the office. To work for full 8 hours can be highly stressful; especially the work is challenging and demanding. However, Google allow the employees to bring their hobbies and pets to the office. When the employees are stressful, they can get relaxed by playing with their pets, feel refreshed, and then continue to work in a more effective manner.
Corporate sponsored childcare. Google is reported to have a corporate membership with childcare and tuition centre providers. The employees in Google can enjoy these services provided by Google, and to enroll their children in these programs, which is partly sponsored by Google.
It is widely acknowledge that Google has a culture of its kind, one that is suitable to perform in the highly competitive, dynamic and fast changing industry. Besides, the special Google culture is said to be the key success factors contributing to the high performance of Google in beating the competition, leading the industry, being learnable organization, and is creative and innovative in delivering services and products to the marketplace. A review of the scenario in Google reveals several insights of Google culture as follow.
Team oriented culture. Google is famous for cultivating a team work culture in the firm, whereby individuals achievements are encouraged, and the team performance are rewarded. In Google, the hierarchical power distance is minimal, whereby everyone is pretty much about the same level and work together. The people working in Google are expected to perform in a team, and to achieve goals together rather than to compete against each others. Workplace is arranged in a way that people can share ideas freely, and to talk about ideas freely and conveniently.
Work hard and play hard culture. In Google, employees are encouraged to work and play together, so that a family bond is created. For example, there are bicycles or scooters for efficient travel between meetings. Dogs and pets are allowed in the office, and lava lamps and other creative designed are encouraged in workplace.
Creative culture. In Google, employees are expected to be creative and to think ‘outside the box’. To conform to the norm is considered as abnormal. Employees are encouraged to take risk, and risk taking is essentially considered as creative problem solving. A higher than average degree of freedom is allowed for the employees – whereby the employees are allowed to make decisions that benefit Google users.
Besides, it is also acknowledged that Google has a strong culture. It is reported that the corporate culture of Google, is essentially a replica of the culture during Google start-up. The flexible, informal working environment is similar to that of the environment of a ‘garage’ when Google is still in the infancy. Besides, it is also argued that Larry and Sergey’s values have been long adopted by Google. They are helpful, work in team and creative. In the corporate website of Google, the management admittedly mentioned that up to date, the company is still maintaining a small company feels in Google.
Apart from that, to achieve a strong culture, the company has been careful in employees’ selection and training processes. For example, Google is said to only hire those that embrace the company’s values and share the same desire to growth, innovate and being creative. It is mentioned that interviewers in Google prefer to look for candidates that able to contribute ideas, instead of those that will wait for the teammates for ideas. With careful selection, Google will be able to ensure all the employees are indeed working in a similar direction, and this in turn will build stronger bond within the workforce.
A study on Google reveal that the real scenario in managing stresses and organizational culture in Google is similar to those proposed in theories. The only different is that Google able to come out with more creative ideas, and to implement these ideas effectively in workplace. For example, both academic theories and evidences from the success of Google suggested that it is a great idea to reduce employees’ stress by providing flexible workplace, fun and relaxing working environment, childcare to the workforce and provision of sport facilities. However, Google go for the extra miles, whereby the company even allows employees to bring along their personal hobbies and style to office. Pets are allowed! Employees are allowed to play while working. Even the CEO is found playing Lego during working hours. Such a fun and inspiring workplace is definitely helpful to reduce a large amount of stress faced by the employees. However, it is also acknowledged that the policies implemented in Google do not only help to manage stress in the organization in a proactive manner. In fact, such policies can cultivate a working environment to produce more creative and innovative workplace. When the employees are less stressful, they can think better, with a clearer and better mind. Not only are that, the strategies also has powerful effects against employees motivation and retention rate.
Besides, theories suggested that strong corporate culture is often associated with high performance. That is true for Google. Not only is that, theories also argued that the corporate culture and values are often originated from the personality and style of the founders, and that is true as well. Apart from that, the method in which Google uses to enhance the corporate culture is consistent with the strategies proposed by theories. For example, it is suggested that to strengthen corporate culture, management should select and recruit properly, and to only select those who will embrace the company culture. This is what is happening in Google. The culture adopted by Google is also relevant and competitive in the dynamic business environment. Particularly in the competitive internet and information technology industry, creativity and team work are essential to the success of a firm (i.e., both these values are adopted by firm such as Intel, Microsoft and IBM as well). It is reasonable to believe that the strong corporate culture is indeed the key factors leading to the success of Google, as what is predicted by academic theories as we discussed previously.
Overall, it is apparent that theories are useful and helpful as guidance on how the ideal corporation can be formed, structured and managed. With proper alteration to the strategies, managers can even create a better management style that may bring a company to great success, as evidenced in the case of Google.
Google is a successful company. There are many lessons to be learned from the successes. The methods to manage stress among employees are creative, and outstanding. The organizational culture is a strong one. With proper policies, methods and careful employees’ selection strategies, Google able to further enhance the corporate culture of Google, which is a creative, work hard play hard and team-oriented culture. This paper offer many ideas for new start-up company to learn from the successes of Google in the dynamic and competitive business environment.
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Google has one of the most interesting organizational cultures. They are not only one of the fastest and most useful web search engines around; they are also one of the top 100 companies to work for according to Fortune (2007).
Google strives to have the fastest, most reliable search engine on the web and in order to accomplish this; Google has to hire employees that are the best in their technological field. Google rewards their employee’s hard work with an extremely relaxed workplace that encourages creativity through fun activities such as roller hockey and through a casual dress code. Google also encourages their employees to take care of their minds and their bodies by offering them the ability to work out in the gym and get a massage inside the company building. “There is an emphasis on team achievements and pride in individual accomplishments that contribute to the company’s overall success” (Google Corporate Information). I really like that Google understands that their employee’s have active lives outside of the workplace and they encourage their employees to bring those parts of their lives into the Google employee community. I also really like the fact that they build such loyalty from their employees that many of the employees see each other and the Google management as a family.
Google values a commitment to their users in that they strive to give a higher level of service. I personally believe in giving the best service available. It does not matter where you work, if you are dealing with people, you should give them the best experience possible. I want any person that I encounter, either in a work situation or on a personal level, to feel like they are important.
I hate when I encounter the random rude person whose job is to help me as a customer. I went to a Wal-Mart a while back with my mother who has a visual impairment. I was teaching her how to use the self-check out when the woman who monitored those lines got frustrated with my mother and made her feel stupid. This annoyed me to no extent. I ended up reporting this woman to her manager. I believe that when you are service oriented, you must make sure that you relate to the people you encounter. I don’t like going into a store in a good mood, encountering a rude worker, and leave in a bad mood. If anything it should be the other way around. Even though Google works with their users virtually, they still value the customer relationship.
I believe that Google embodies the team orientation primary characteristic of organizational culture. As stated earlier, Google encourages its employees to work and play together so that a family bond is formed. According to Google (2007), “Meetings that would take hours elsewhere are frequently little more than a conversation in line for lunch and few walls separate those who write code from those who write checks.” This really does reinforce a team environment. Everyone is pretty much on the same level and everyone works together. The limited walls in the building help the employees to feel like a group rather than an outsider in another department.
Google’s organizational culture is very strong. Google hires people that embody their company’s values and feel the same intense desire for unlimited amounts of information. This desire allows the company’s employees to work towards the same goals and intensifies the bond that they share. Google tends to have a low turn over rate and receives over 1,300 applications a day (Fortune, 2007).
Google’s culture is a combination of things. It is ethical, customer-responsive, and spiritual. Google encourages its employees to be creative in problem solving which sometimes calls for risk taking. These employees are allowed just enough freedom in their jobs that they do not take it for granted and this keeps them on ethical ground. The Google employees also have a sense of team instead of self so this encourages them to work together to achieve goals rather than compete against one another. This also prevents unethical behavior.
Google’s low formalization and service-oriented employees work to be customer-responsive. They are allowed the freedom to make decisions that benefit Google users. The employees strive to provide the best service available and to do this they must be able to relate to their users. They understand that “thinking outside of the box” is what they are known for so they go above and beyond what others would do to satisfy a customer need while maintaining company values.
This “outside of the box” type of business also puts the company into a spiritual type of organization. Employees are rewarded for individual successes and for team accomplishments. They are also encouraged to
have fun with their job. Google’s ability to allow their employees to have fun while at work is motivating in itself. This motivation shows itself in the work as well. It is a give and take relationship; both sides get something out of it. Google has a unique way of conducting business that appeals too many. It is this sort of culture that creates individuals that have the desire and the motivation to stay with a company.
Fortune. (2007). 100 Best Companies To Work For 2007. Retrieved on July 11, 2007 from http://www.money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/bestcompanies/2007/snapshots/1.html
Google. (2007). Corporate Information. Retrieved on July 11, 2007 from http://www.google.com/corporate/culture.html
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both Stanford graduates hit it off together when they plunged into their own Internet business close to their campus. Physically, the start up was a garage makeover, with free washer, dryer, shower and refrigerator being the only attractions of the job. Susan Wojcicki, who later became the company’s director of product management, owned the garage. Subsequently, a toaster oven and candy and snacks kiosks were added. All these little gestures helped the Page and Sergey duo to make a business triumph.
The Larry and Sergey business feat is better known as Google, a powerful multi-billion dollar Internet search engine that satiates Internet users curiosity quotients. Today, the two young computer science graduates enjoy a celebrity status and offer advice on almost all news programmes while actively participating in high profile events like the World Economic Forum. The MIT technology Review Magazine described Larry Page as the “young innovator who will create the future.”
The Google differentiation
A thorough analysis of Google’s business success points to one feature that sets Google apart from the other players in cyberspace. It is the people policies at the company. Despite its success, the company has kept intact its values and principles. The corporate culture at Google is a replica of its culture in its infancy. The washer, dryer, and shower facilities are still very much a part of the benefits Google offers to its employees. The company went all out to help Susan Wojcicki when she was attending to her new born. Apart from the maternity leave, the company provided Susan and her family free meals till the baby was one week old. This is not all. In the past five years, the company has loaded its benefits package with more and more attractive options.
Larry and Sergey’s garage values have taken them a long way. Within just a year, Google added 500 employees to its workforce of 200 in the year 2002. Hiring therefore has become a long drawn process with over 1000 resumes waiting to be screened everyday by its 20 member filtering team.
HR as a function is of special interest both to Larry and Sergey. Both participate actively in all its projects. Every Wednesday the twosome meets up with Stacy Sullivan the Director HR, to discuss the hiring process in terms of the time it consumes, candidate difficulties etc. In addition, the duo offer suggestions to improvise the existing HR practices. For instance, Sergey suggested a hiring process that was purely based on resumes to save on the interview time. A pilot study is in progress, the results of which have been satisfactory so far.
What is in its culture?
If one comes across a well-dressed executive with a formal mein and body language in the company premises, one can be sure that he is a only visitor at Google. At Google formality and convention are alien. Candidates who behave and think conventionally are total misfits in the organisation. However, this does not by any means suggest indiscipline.
The company’s need for employees who are flexible and unconventional is evident right from its interview sessions. The interview room usually has different seating arrangements ranging from a leather-upholstered chair to a beanbag. A candidate who prefers the beanbag (unconventional preference for an interview) interests the panel members. At Google, interviewers also look for candidates who believe in their thinking capabilities rather than depending on the team for inputs. This apart, Stacy Sullivan and her team make an effort to keep in regular touch with the top management professors for updates on their best students. This helps them in identifying the best of the talent and making them a part of their invincible team.
Interestingly the duo passionately believe that it is the effort one puts in workforce management that gives companies their competitive edge more than their products.
Employees are covered under their health and 401(k) benefits policy right from day one of their service. New employees are entitled to a three-week long vacation in the first year of their service. Google does not believe in sick leave, if an employee is sick, he simply stays at home. The physician is available on site twice a week, and employees enjoy free breakfast, lunch and dinner for the time they are sick.
In addition, the company has an array of benefits. These include:
Corporate sponsored childcare
Google has a corporate membership with Heads Up, a childcare and tuition centre. Google employees are given priority in the waitlist allowing faster enrollment in the programme. In addition, Google pays 5 per cent of the programme fees.
This counselling unit assists employees with legal and personal issues, apart from providing guidance in their financial matters.
Employees at Google enjoy the benefits of dental hygienist just inches away from their desks. The dental clinic facilities are made available to the employees on a regular basis in a parking garage with state-of –the art facilities.
Google brings gym to work. The company has an on-site gym with facilities that cater to a range of fitness requirements. Right from weight training to light exercises, the equipment is all there.
Maternity and paternity leave
The company pays its employees 75 per cent of their salary in the first 3 months of maternity leave. Even while on leave employees are entitled to receive health, vision and dental care plans. In addition, $50 per day is given to employees to spend on meals-on-wheels for the first two weeks after delivery.
At Google, it’s ‘like mom, like dad ’. The male members are entitled to a two weeks fully paid leave to spend time with the new born.
Google employees resort to its on-site massage facility for relieving stress.
Equipped with its innovative and creative people practices, Google is all set to take over the top slot in the cyberspace. Despite its expansion and “big corporate” status, the company has made a deliberate attempt to maintain the small company feel that provides employees a certain degree of comfort. Unlike its product that puts an end to the most difficult of searches, Google continues to search for talent with an obsessive commitment to perfection.
Though Google has grown a lot since it opened in 1998, we still maintain a small company feel.
At lunchtime, almost everyone eats in the office café, sitting at whatever table has an opening and enjoying conversations with Googlers from different teams. Our commitment to innovation depends on everyone being comfortable sharing ideas and opinions. Every employee is a hands-on contributor, and everyone wears several hats. Because we believe that each Googler is an equally important part of our success, no one hesitates to pose questions directly to Larry or Sergey in our weekly all-hands (“TGIF”) meetings – or spike a volleyball across the net at a corporate officer.
We are aggressively inclusive in our hiring, and we favor ability over experience. We have offices around the world and dozens of languages are spoken by Google staffers, from Turkish to Telugu. The result is a team that reflects the global audience Google serves. When not at work, Googlers pursue interests from cross-country cycling to wine tasting, from flying to frisbee.
As we continue to grow, we are always looking for those who share a commitment to creating search perfection and having a great time doing it.
Our corporate headquarters, fondly nicknamed the Googleplex, is located in Mountain View, California. Today it’s one of our many offices around the globe. While our offices are not identical, they tend to share some essential elements. Here are a few things you might see in a Google workspace:
- Local expressions of each location, from a mural in Buenos Aires to ski gondolas in Zurich, showcasing each office’s region and personality.
- Bicycles or scooters for efficient travel between meetings; dogs; lava lamps; massage chairs; large inflatable balls.
- Googlers sharing cubes, yurts and huddle rooms – and very few solo offices.
- Laptops everywhere – standard issue for mobile coding, email on the go and note-taking.
- Foosball, pool tables, volleyball courts, assorted video games, pianos, ping pong tables, and gyms that offer yoga and dance classes.
- Grassroots employee groups for all interests, like meditation, film, wine tasting and salsa dancing.
- Healthy lunches and dinners for all staff at a variety of cafés.
- Break rooms packed with a variety of snacks and drinks to keep Googlers going.