Google must be one of the most common single words used in the business world today and often in the context of computers and search engines of course. But in that context I was interested to read an article in the New York Times (to whom I must credit with the core of this story) about the Peeps at Google driving for a better style of management – now that, pricked up my ears…
It turns out that in its early days Google felt that its managers needed to be many times more technically competent than the staff that reported to them, but credit to Google (plus a slab of spare cash I guess) their research showed that to be the least important trait for a good manager. Indeed what employees in Google Towers valued most in a manager was their preparedness to give them time, time for one-on-one meetings and help solving problems by asking questions rather than dictating the answer – in short, the most effective and respected managers were those who took a genuine interest in their employees.
Of course we come back swiftly to staff retention and uncommonly (much to their credit) Google undertakes quarterly performance reviews (or appraisals) which were showing huge swings in the ratings that employees gave the managers they reported to. Google recognised that managers had a much greater impact on employee performance and how they felt about their job than any other factor.
Google’s personnel director (ok, well over the water it’s probable Vice President of human resources or something) said, “the starting point was that our best managers have teams that perform better and were retained better, indeed do everything better! So once you recognise that these great managers made a real difference, you begin to ask “well what if all our managers were that good” and the next question – what makes them that good and how can you copy it?
So, not rocket science, but importantly Google based their research and actions on work done with their own workforce, which in itself gave greater gravitas to the whole project because staff related to it.
As one might expect from Google, statistics gathered included over 10,000 observations, which were then coded so they could look at patterns – clever stuff!
Anyway, I could write much, much more, but if I was to summarise, Google spent time coaching their managers how to be better. They said, you don’t actually need to change the manager, just get them to give time to their staff and be consistent and that I quote “is more important than doing the rest of the stuff” – interesting – if you like that sort of thing…
Blog Image courtesy of ilco at sxc.hu