How do your employees become brand ambassadors? How do they speak the language of the business at every single touch point, in unison, naturally and comfortably, believing in what they’re saying? How do they “live and breathe it” and feel passionate about it. In short, you need to develop a team of internal cheerleaders. Cheering for the organisation and cheering for the brand. They need to love what they do and be happy to tell everyone about it.
There are many different ways to engage employees, but the trick is aligning brand messages. The best way to do this is to create an internal culture which is synonymous with the external brand. Google do this extremely well. Google is the number one cited organisation for corporate culture. Google employees are called “Googlers” and being an employee means being “Googley”. This infographic illustrates their philosophy.
Infographic: Corporate Culture Mindset via HumanResourcaMBA.net
At Google, culture is guided from the top. The leadership team drive the internal employee initiatives. If they don’t believe it will add to being ‘googley’, and achieve results, they don’t do it. They also have a very solid foundation of trust. Trust in employees, trust in leadership and trust in the culture. Of course innovation is key and employees are encouraged to fail and try again.
A few things Google does:
GOOGLE’S BEST PRACTICES FOR BUILDING CULTURE
- Engineers are ½ of the organization. Engineers like to “do cool things.” After one year, an engineer can bid to work on anything they want to. “Popular projects” get more bids, less popular ones don’t. Project leads have to learn to sell/pitch their ideas to appeal to engineers.
- “Innovation from Everywhere.” Innovation is expected at Google, in every segment of the business. You can use 20% of your time on anything – people vote and pledge their 20% time to projects that are seen as promising or cool. It’s “a license to pursue your dreams” says Marissa Mayer. “If I don’t have a good 20% project yet, I need one. It could negatively impact on my review.” Half the new products and features launched by Google are said to come from work done under the 20% rule.
- Google is constantly building “dog food teams” – the groups who work to make all products better.
- Google products are always in Beta. It is a Silicon Valley punch line that Google products stay in beta forever. Mistakes are celebrated. There was a product launch in 2009 that didn’t catch on – a big failure, externally and internally. That product launch team was celebrated, given a bonus, AND given a Founder’s Award (prestigious). Eventually that workstream rolled into what is now Google Plus.
- TGIF – every Friday, Larry and Sergey stand on a stage and answer ANY question. People log on and ask and then vote on the questions they most want answered. They go through the screen and take every one on, candidly. It is common to hear someone say “I think you made a mistake with _______.” And they will come back with “Here’s why we did it.”
- “Hiring is the most process-driven thing we do.” (Shannon Deegan, VP of HR). They have 2 million applications for 500 jobs. The screening process is rigorous – they will leave a role open a year if they don’t find the right fit.
- All people decisions at Google (in fact, all decisions period) are based on data and analytics. Google VP Marissa Meyer once said “If a Google employee is meeting with Larry and Sergey to talk about users’ needs, they’d better come with more than their own conclusions – they had better come with data. Their immediate question will be “How many people did you test?””
- Nooglers (new to Google) are given lots of on-boarding support. They are taught early on:
- It’s fun to work here – have fun.
- Think big and take risks.
- If it’s broken, fix it or find someone who can.
- Invent solutions not yet thought possible.
- One of the most-asked questions at Google: “Wouldn’t it be cool if…..”
- We take employee surveys very seriously. There is a 90%+ response rate (very high compared to most large organizations) and most people elect to reveal their identity, although they don’t have to. Recent changes from surveys:
- Make it easier to find a mentor
- Simplify internal mobility (transfer) process by making it transparent and user friendly
- Provide more tools to help Googlers define, articulate, and plan for career development
- Reduce bias during performance reviews
- How closely does employee perception of the value of benefits, match reality?
- Is employee networking valuable to the organization?
- Create internal agility by putting in place only as much structure as absolutely necessary. Managers are RESOURCES not bosses. They work FOR the team.
- Give people the tools to make innovation easy: New computers every 18 months. Also, lots of server space, 24 hour help desk, Radio Shack on-site.
- Peer bonuses – anyone can log on and give someone a $200 peer bonus, no approval needed. (the person just cannot be in your direct team.) We have never seen it abused.
- Everyone at every level gets stock on the day they start, which vests at one year.
- Teams are responsible for the culture globally – all offices watch the Larry & Sergey TGIF chat on video and are accountable to create an office that “feels Googley.”*
I love these best practices, but what can we learn from them and actually implement in our own organisations? On top of trust, other key elements include staff benefits, rewards and recognition, bonuses, responsibility and accountability, on-boarding support, leadership, communication, and a flat organisational structure.
At the core of it all though are Google’s values or what they call ‘being googley’. I think this is the real key. Their values are ingrained, intrinsic to the organisation. It’s an expected way to behave. You don’t get a job there unless you behave this way and you certainly don’t keep your job if your behaviour is anything but ‘googley’. The meaning of being ‘googley’ is well communicated and staff can articulate it. It’s what makes Google Google.
I think you have to start with your core values. How you want your people to behave. Every single person in the organisation needs to subscribe to your core values and be engaged with them.
I think if we concentrate on defining ‘googley’ for our own organisation and focus on being ‘that’ everyday, through everything we do, we can build a team of internal cheerLEADERS™ and build an organisation achieving real success.
*Source: “THE REAL SECRET OF GOOGLE’S CORPORATE CULTURE” corporateculturepros.com.