Closing Case Study
MOTIVATING EMPLOYEES AT GOOGLE
Google is the most popular search engine on the Internet today and earns revenues for one-third of all online advertising in the United States.. Its popularity is due, in no small part, to Google, Inc.’s steadfast objective to provide the best search results possible to its users and “organize the world’s information.”. Google’s organizational objective dictates that users’ experiences are paramount.. Consequently, employees are continually collecting data on what users like and don’t like and what will improve that experience.. About 20,000 people work at Google, many of them top-notch engineers.. Creating algorithms that make searches on Goggle the most efficient in the industry while keeping costs low is a consuming passion for Google’s employees (known as Googlers).
Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who met as graduate students in computer science at Stanford University in 1995, collaborated on a search engine called BackRub back in 1996. They continued to work on the search engine from Larry’s dorm room, and in 1998, sought funding to found their own company, Google, Inc. in Menlo Park, California. The rest has been literal history as Google, now located in the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, has grown at a phenomenal rate.. And Google continues to grow. For example, in the 66 quarter of 2010, Google’s revenues were $6.78 billion (a 23 percent increase over the first quarter of 2009) and net income for the quarter increased more than 37 percent over the prior year’s quarter to 1.96 billion.
Google is a truly global corporation with offices in Europe, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Latin America, Canada, India, Korea, and the Middle East. A key ingredient for Google’s ongoing success story is the way in which Google creates a motivating work setting for its employees. Fueled by the overarching objective of providing users with the ultimate search, Googlers concentrate on giving users exactly what they want at breakneck speed.93 To achieve results like these, employees at Google are given the flexibility and autonomy to experiment, take risks, and sometimes fail. They are encouraged to learn from their failures, however, and apply what they’ve learned to subsequent projects.
Google’s engineers are provided with 1 day a week to work on their own projects that they are highly involved with, and new products such as Google News often emerge from these projects 95 Managers, including founders Page and Brin, believe that good ideas can be found from anyone anywhere in the company and all Googlers are encouraged to come up with the next big idea. Googlers can post proposals for new projects on a mailing list that circulates throughout the company. Top managers have office hours during which employees can drop in, discuss new ideas and projects, and receive feedback. These projects often call on a variety of employee skills. For example, Google’s international web-master in the mid 2000’s who came up with the site’s holiday logo translated the whole site into Korean and the chief operations engineer at this time was also a neurosurgeon.. Engineers collaborate with each other on their projects and with managers.
While Google has grown exponentially since its founding, it still has an aura of an informal, small company where highly motivated Googlers work on projects to achieve organizational objectives of speed and cost-containment, projects that they have the autonomy to pursue and a sense of ownership to have succeed.• Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Projects & User Experience, is involved in many of these projects and interfaces between engineers with PhDs and managers with MBAs to ensure that the best projects see the light of day.. Mayer, whose office with glass walls is purposely located next to the snack area frequented by engineers and programmers, not only holds office hours for Googlers but also is typically at work from 9 A.M. to midnight and available for engineers to Op by and discuss their ideas. Just as speed is essential to Internet searches, so too is it to new product development, according to Mayer. As she puts it, “I like to launch [products] early and often. That has become my mantra:. And having such a mantra is motivational for Googlers as they know their ideas will be listened to and heard and what they are doing is important not only for the company but also for users around the globe.
Recently, some engineers at Google have been given even higher levels of autonomy and resources to pursue projects on their own that managers hope will be highly innovative. For ex-ample, Lars and Jens Rasmussen are Google employees in Australia who work on Google Maps and also happen to be brothers. A project they were pursing on the side focused on a new kind of communication system that might even be thought of as a replacement or substitute for email and allows for collaboration and communication in real time. Founders Page and Brin and Eric Schmidt, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Google, thought the idea sounded interesting, told the brothers to pursue it, and gave them all the resources they needed, including dozens of employees. The Rasmussen’s project, Google Wave, was in a limited preview in May 2010. For this and the many other projects ongoing at Google, engineers, managers, and all employees have the overall objective of “providing the best user experience possible.”. Given the popularity of Google, this objective is serving Google, its managers and employees, and its users very well.
Questions for Discussion
1. HOW would you characterize engineers’ jobs at Google in terms of the job characteristics model?
2. Why are engineers at Google given one day a week to work on their own projects?
3. Why do you think Page, Brin, and Schmidt gave the Rasmussen brothers high levels of autonomy to develop Google Wave?
4. How might Google’s overarching objective of providing the best user experience influence the goals engineers set for themselves as they pursue new projects?