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September 24, 2020 Thursday 12:22:54 PM IST

Work Culture

Career News

It is important to develop a work culture that is unique for each organisation and that bests suits them.

What if you could build an organizational culture exactly like Google’s? Wouldn’t it be great? Actually, it probably wouldn’t. Every organization has its own personality, values, and ways of doing things. If you tried to force some other company’s culture on yours, it would be as out of place and unwelcoming. Yet, it will be rewarding to reflect on how you can take parts of what they do, and adapt them to fit your company. In Work Rules, Laszlo Bock provides his insider viewpoint on what makes Google tick and how you and your organization can emulate some of these winning ideas.

Bock became a part of Google as the Chief People Officer and saw the organization grow from 6000 workforce in 2006 to 60,000 workforce in 2016. This book encapsulates his understanding of the work rules and values behind Google’s tremendous success. To be precise, he clarifies how Google has built such a vibrant culture, enticing top global talents and achieves remarkable performance.  He breaks down what it really means to empower workforce, hire the best and engage in incessant improvement.

Be experimental

Bock and Google were cautious to try to avoid forcing any changes on Google employees, so most changes were labelled as ‘temporary experiments.’

This made it safer to roll back or change a new initiative comparatively quickly depending on the reaction of Googlers. It also facilitated in reducing what Bock described as ‘entitlement’ issues.  With frequent experiments, employees didn’t take too many of the Google perks for granted and believe them as the status quo. One such instance was when Google developed Google Shopping Express. They provided Googlers twenty five dollars to try it, and a number of times subsequently. Nevertheless, each time Bock stated, ‘‘We clarified it was a test, so there was never any anticipation that each month you’d get a free $25.” When they wound up this initiative, Bock reported they had no complaints.

Giving Choice

If you want to alter the behaviour of your employees, it can be tempting to try to force a choice upon your workforce. Regrettably, when given no choice, people often rebel. In an effort to make their employees eat healthier, particularly for between meal snacks, Google restructured their snack kitchens. Healthy snacks like dried fruits and nuts were conspicuously exhibited in clear containers, while candy was placed in containers with small labels in harder to reach areas. The results from these small changes were remarkable. By merely taking advantage of the impact of proximity to food, Google was able to bring down total calories consumed from candy by 30. Unluckily, not all experiments were as big a success as the snack kitchen changes. Google initiated a ‘Meatless Mondays’ in some of their cafeterias. While some vegetarians got delighted, other Googlers were annoyed. In a very noticeable form of protest, a group of Googlers held a barbeque in the office parking lot. The insight they obtained from surveys later was that “they didn’t like having choices made for them.”

Crowd is Smarter

Google has developed a number of thought-provoking practices to improve their hiring as they grew exponentially and wanted to maintain a high standard for hires. For instance, subordinates should interview their future managers to ensure they’ll be excited to work for them. They have a “Cross functional interviewer” to ensure an individual isn’t hired out of desperation or because the role has been open for too long. The ideal number of interviewers is 4 to avoid too few or too many interviewers spending time on a candidate. This last insight is particularly fascinating. Google takes the scores of every interviewer alike and then averages the scores to decide whether to hire someone. After widespread research, they found that the average score of this ideal group of 4 interviewers yielded an 86% hiring accuracy rate. 

‘Two Tails’

Most firms consider performance like a normal distribution curve: those at the top are compensated, those at the bottom are fired, and the rest are branded as average. Google found it most satisfying to focus on its 2 tails, i.e. its best and worst performing employees. Your top 5% are the best people to teach you what works precisely for your organization; study them carefully then build programs to measure and replicate their best attributes.  As for your bottom 5%, it’s inefficient to remove them just because they aren’t performing as well as the rest. Presuming you’ve hired the right individuals, then it pays to focus your interventions on this minority that’s struggling—if you can move someone from the 5th percentile to the 50th percentile, it’d mean a quantum jump in his/her impact.


Individuals assume that Google spent thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars on perks for every employee. It turns out, the bulk of Google’s perks don’t cost them anything. So how do they do it? Google identified that many businesses would like to sell to Google’s workforce. So they use their negotiating power as a source of fifty thousand employee’s probable customers to get discounts. They also frequently request employees to pay for using the perk. Now, you possibly don’t have the leverage of fifty thousand employees, but for a local, small business, a prospective 50 or 100 customers coming to them is likely to get a solid discount you can pass along to your employees.

The real lesson from work rules is that every company is different in what makes them great, but all great leaders are inspired by others. Work Rules shares wonderful insights into how Google has flourished and you’re bound to find a few thoughts you can bring to your company.

Dr. Manu Melwin Joy

The writer is an Assistant Professor at School of Management Studies, CUSAT

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