‘Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast’: Inside Google

Richard Branson recently highlighted the fact that employees will soon choose employers and not the other way around. In these circumstances, culture becomes one of the major tools for any organisation to attract and retain the best employees.

This week, we’re covering how Google build and maintain one of their most famous attributes: their vibrant organisational culture.

EMPOWERING PEOPLE TO WORK

Google adopts what it calls a high freedom model, where people are given a little more trust, freedom and authority than you might be comfortable with. The cornerstones of Google’s culture are mission, transparency and voice, and these are expected to be shared, lived and breathed by all of its employees.

Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock professes a personal belief that if you give people freedom, they will surprise, delight and amaze you. He acknowledges that people will also disappoint you, but considers this to be just one of the trade-offs.

The Google culture is so significant, that Laszlo says decisions are consistently made “not on economics, but on what supported our values”. He speaks of several times in which a focus on making decisions in line with the Google culture shaped their overall strategy, not the other way around.

The results are evident in all that Google do, from their core business to their consistent record of taking ‘moonshots’ all aimed at progressing new areas to at least 10x current levels. Google focus on revolutionary change rather than small innovations at every level and this enables them to lead rather than follow.

GETTING AHEAD AND STAYING AHEAD: CREATING A CULTURE THAT MATTERS

Dan Pink believes a great company culture is critical for recruiting, employee engagement and achieving its vision, but defining that culture can be difficult as your business grows and changes.

Pink believes that culture supports the notion that “money can’t buy us”. Simply, that employees aren’t necessarily motivated by remuneration but instead the following three points:

Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.
Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

These are all the foundations of a good organisational culture and interestingly, run directly counter to the traditional approach rewarding performance with pay and little else.

Pink himself suggests that the best use of money as a motivator is “to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table and they’re not thinking about money, they’re thinking about the work.”

Google’s strategy for engaging employees goes beyond simply giving them free time and wonderful offices in which to work. Their mission is central to all they do and drives strategy from hiring through to promotion and reward structures.

Many companies have static mission statements, that once the company achieves this, then what? Google’s believes you will never complete organizing the world’s information that its own vision evolves and grows, as should your culture.

TIPS TO BUILD A HIGH PERFORMING WORKPLACE CULTURE

Google is one example of an elite company using organisational culture to shape successful business. At the same time, so many organisations are asking, how do I know what my culture is and how do I build it? Many just don’t know where to start.

Unfortunately, as the Harvard Business Review recently pointed out, you can’t just copy practices from another company. The value of culture really comes from it being designed around your business’ values, vision and objectives. But, it doesn’t hurt to know how and what other companies do.

The following are suggestions we have to start securing, growing and retaining the best talent to take your business as a leader into the future.

Articulate your mission, why does your organisation exist?
What is important to your organisation? What are your values and what do you want people to say about you?
Determine the level of freedom you want to give to your staff? How much of a voice do people have in your organisation and how do they use it? If you value innovation, but don’t provide staff with an avenue to present new ideas and challenge the status quo, how realistic is your approach?
Understand that culture is not static, it is constantly changing.

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