Fostering 'Googleyness' in Your Organization: Five Key Factors for Success

by Diane Berenbaum

The way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform at work. Yet, a Gallup study released last year revealed that only 30% of employees in the United States feel engaged at work. And, a recent Harvard Medical School research study found that the senior leaders in these organizations are increasingly reporting signs of burnout.

It's clear that associates across all levels in varying industries lack the energy and drive to perform their best at work. The demand for our time is relentless, and we're faced with a flood of omnipresent information that we “need to know" to stay current. We're overwhelmed and overcome with the need to reply immediately to requests, day or night. It's hard to feel “engaged" when faced with persistent messages and the pressure to be responsive, regardless of the time zone.

In fact, according to a 2013 Gallup report, just 30% of employees in America feel engaged at work. And around the world, across 142 countries, the proportion of employees who say they are “engaged" is just 13%. Another 2013 survey, conducted by The Energy Project, found that 50% of employees don't find meaning in their work, any connection to their company's mission, or a sense of community.

In other words, work is a depleting, disheartening experience for some of us; and in many ways, it's getting worse.

But a truly human-centered organization puts its people first, because it recognizes that their associates are the key to creating long-term value. According to a recent New York Times article, employees who say they have supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and 67% more engaged.

At Google, there are many initiatives to keep their smart, creative associates hungry and happy. Aside from their renowned perks like sushi, salads and massages, the organization makes sure its associates feel heard and challenged. In his recent book, Work Rules!, Google's People Chief/Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, reveals why Google is consistently rated one of the best places to work in the world. And, “It's not the company-provided lunch" that keep people there. Googlers tell us there are three reasons they stay: the mission, the quality of the people, and the chance to build the skill set of a better leader or entrepreneur."

Google listens to its employees by encouraging feedback among peers. During their weekly TGIF, ‘Thank Google It's Friday' (held on Thursdays so that it's not a weekend in Asia), co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin respond live on stage to questions from employees. The people analytics team, which gathers tons of employee data, discovered that this type of feedback, particularly for new employees, boosts productivity.

When hiring, Bock doesn't start with Grades or GPAs, because they “don't predict anything." But, “good" is not enough either—Google needs to do everything very well so they can get to a “Wow" reaction. So after analyzing their data, they came up with the following five key factors for success:

1. Cognitive Ability
Being “smart" is not the key to getting or keeping a job at Google. In his interview with the New York Times, Bock stated that “For every job, the number one thing we look for is general cognitive ability"— in other words, higher mental processes such as reasoning, understanding and intellectual capacity. According to Bock, “It's not I.Q. It's the ability to process on the fly; to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that with structured behavioral interviews, which we validate to make sure they're predictive."

2. Emergent Leadership
It's not about traditional positions, such as Director of Operations or Vice President of Sales. No one cares. What people care about is how you handle issues. Do you step up and lead at the right time? And, do you step back and let someone else lead when it's the right thing to do?

"Part of the challenge with leadership is that it's very driven by gut instinct in most cases—and even worse, everyone thinks they're really good at it. The reality is that very few people are," Bock explained. Instead, he recommends learning from your best employees, as well as your worst. You'll quickly discover the difference it can make.

3.  Humility
The ultimate goal of a team is to solve a problem or find a solution. Humility is when you contribute your ideas, without holding on to your beliefs or stance. Bock suggests a “default" of being open, which means being transparent and welcoming feedback.

“What we've seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They'll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here's a new fact,' and they'll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you're right.' You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time."

4.  Passion, Pride and Ownership
Many people spend more time focusing more on “how" they do the work, instead of the “why" behind it. To discover renewed passion for what you do, ask yourself these three questions:

"How will my product or service improve the lives of my customers?"

"How do I add value for my customers?"

"What is unique about what I offer that I can be truly proud of?"
You'll find that the answers will not only inform your purpose at work, but also engender increased pride in what you do.

5.  Expertise
Google sees the value in computer scientists educated at universities, and the value of self-learners who've been through software developer bootcamps. But, they found that college performance test scores didn't predict success in a career. According to a New York Times interview, Bock noted that the “proportion of people at Google without a college education has increased over time" — now as high as 14% on some teams.

So to enhance their knowledge base and gain expertise, they take the time to listen to all. And, learn from their best employees as well as their worst.

We spend a lot of time at work. In fact, the average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. But, it doesn't need to be disheartening or discouraging. Focusing on these factors can make the difference between becoming a laggard or a leader. It's your choice.
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .

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