Since Google’s founding, most business leaders have taken some interest in understanding what has made the company grow so quickly and successfully. I know, I have.
Ears perk up when Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page share their views. Readers eagerly awaited Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg’s lessons learned in How Google Works. And I’ve personally been privileged to hear John Doerr’s experience with the search giant.
Still, I was struck by the practicality of Google’s data-driven approach to talent when I finished Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google that Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock, head of People Operations at the company. The book is full of examples of what Google did as it reimagined hiring, training, compensation and other areas to build a high-performing, modern work environment. (By way of full disclosure, Laszlo is also an advisor to BetterWorks.)
Laszlo writes, “The secrets of Google’s people success can be replicated in organizations large and small, by individuals and CEOs.” He then proceeds to share 10 work rules that every company can and arguably should adopt. Without giving away too much, my favorites are give your work meaning (#1) and focus on the two tails (#5).
I’ve had the opportunity to talk with Laszlo on several occasions about talent, engagement, and data-driven results. Most recently, we participated in a KPCB podcast on “Engaging Millennials in the Workplace.” During that session, Laszlo spoke about Millennials wanting freedom and a voice, and how meaning, honesty, and transparency in the workplace are top priorities. He reiterates those themes in the book—describing transparency and openness as critical to business and personal success, not just for Millennials but for all employees.
“All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good—and enough courage to treat your people like owners instead of machines. Machines do their jobs; owners do whatever is needed to make their companies and teams successful,” Laszlo says.
My philosophy is similar. Every employee should act as the CEO of his or her particular area. That’s the intent of our goal-setting software. It’s designed to be open and transparent, enabling employees to see and share goals cross-functionally, which brings alignment and engagement around the work that matters most. And that leads straight into the point of rule #1!
When it comes to hot-button employee topics such as performance management, Laszlo doesn’t shy away because he says, “We spend more time working than doing anything else in life. It’s not right that the experience of work should be so demotivating and dehumanizing.” He devotes a whole chapter to Why Everyone Hates Performance Management, and What We Decided to Do About It.
Google has always used the Objectives-Key Results (OKRs) goal-setting approach, but Laszlo outlines how it has been improved thanks to employee feedback about ways to better meet the needs of Googlers. He believes improving performance comes from focusing on personal growth rather than ratings and rewards. With a solutions like BetterWorks, employers can see exactly how their lowest and highest performers are doing, ensuring continued focus on the two tails (#5).
Work Rules! is full of valuable data and insights. It also includes several experiments and ideas for effectively handling change that any company can undertake. I’ve noted a few that I want to try at BetterWorks.
The issues this book addresses are important for both business leaders and employees. Every company striving to be high performing and thinking about ways to get workforces more engaged and accountable should read it.