Google, one of the world’s wealthiest and fastest growing companies, is often presented as a model of a ‘progressive’ organisation. What lessons can other businesses learn? The white paper on work in 2020, released by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) last month, contained a summary of aspects of Google’s culture, and drew some conclusions about its implications for other organisations.
Established in 1998, Google now employs more than 20,000 people, has been adding staff at the rate of around 6000 per year, and receives around 7000 unsolicited job applications per day.
Core culture statements Google has three core culture statements: 1. People are the most important asset. 2. You can be serious without wearing a suit. 3. You can make money without doing evil. Built-in ‘innovation time’ Google provides ‘innovation time off’, that is, one work day out of every five is allocated to solving problems. All business ‘problems’ are circulated to all staff for ‘solution sessions’. Work environment Amenities and benefits at Google’s US Head Office include 19 restaurants, free dental care, a health centre, haircuts, massages, a crèche, gymnasiums, a hotel, laundry, car wash and community bus.
The restaurant tables are oval-shaped, on the assumption that social interactions stimulate knowledge and learning breakthroughs. The aim is for people to interact with each other while they are eating, and the underlying cultural assumption is that work and other life should be merged as much as possible. Google wants its employees to spend as much time as possible there.
But it’s not for everyone The AHRI white paper points out that one of the potential drawbacks of this ‘work is life’ culture is that if things go wrong at work, they are likely to go wrong in other aspects of your life as well. It is therefore important to maintain connections with people in your life outside employment.
Genuine work–life balance implies that everyone needs to be part of something else outside the workplace — not all the core family, friends and relationships should reside or be nurtured within the workplace.