What makes Google top ‘best companies’ list

17 Jul,2012

By Devina Sengupta


It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly gives a giant corporation like Google its famous startup culture. Perhaps it’s the independence people enjoy, the absence of red tape or the freedom to disagree.


Or it could be that the search giant has managed to pick the right lot of people – those who can come up with next big idea, or better still, help a colleague come up with it. And this becomes glaringly obvious to those for whom Google was not their first employer. Ramesh Ravishankar had worked with other firms before he joined Google Hyderabad and realised that this was a wholly different workplace.


“Bosses work closely with you and you are never penalised for your failures,” he said. This is starkly different from most other companies where numbers and targets are paramount and there is no excuse for not achieving them. “We are in the business of selling ideas,” said Rashi Tyagi, who works for Google’s online sales team.


A lot of the credit for creating this culture goes to Google’s hiring policy. The company is not always looking for the smartest candidates; it wants people who fit in and that gets gauged by the peers, juniors and bosses in an interview. When Jayashri Ramamurti, currently head of people operations, first walked in for an interview, she was interviewed by her (future) juniors before being accepted at Google.


“They wanted to know my views on the compensation structure,” she recalled. While this was an unusual experience for Ms Ramamurti, she eventually realised why it was necessary. Google wants people who seamlessly fit into its culture. That’s why it pushes its employees to ask their friends to join them. It takes time for new people to settle into any organisation but if they’re known to employees, the transition becomes easier.


Newcomers are given six months to watch and absorb Google’s ways of working before being put on a team. Mit Koradia said this led to a smooth transition for him, “Despite being surrounded by IIT and IIM graduates, I wasn’t uncomfortable with the transition at all. On the contrary, I was made to feel comfortable from day one.”


Teams play a central role in the professional and personal lives of Google’s staff. Whether it’s a query on income tax or a piece of code, all one has to do is create a discussion thread online and the solutions come pouring in. Ms Ramamurti just returned from the US with medicines for an employee she had never met, after seeing a request on one such thread.


Similarly, when Rashi Tyagi and her US-based colleague faced a roadblock in their project, they needed some clarifications from their Tel Aviv team. Within a few hours, they were patched on to a video conference with the team from Israel.


At Google, roles are defined but not rigid. The company likes to whet the risk appetite of its employees by challenging them. Ayesha Chauhan was accepted as an account planner and within a few months, was moved to a specialist role, despite being relatively new at the firm.


During appraisals, metrics are clearly defined and regular one-on-one sessions are arranged so that there is no haziness at the end of the year. The firm is making its reward system more frequent, flexible and fast so that employees will be rewarded for good work immediately. Every business decision has the HR as business partner to ensure that it remains about the people and not merely markets.


Even the washrooms echo the entrepreneurial spirit of the company with zero per cent attrition. A poster featuring a Google employee talking about his working style is slapped behind the restroom doors. He says: “Keep doing your own thing. Till they fire you”. And firing someone for an idea, no matter how bizarre, is simply not Google’s style.


Source: The Economic Times

Copyright © 2012, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved


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