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How Companies Tackle HR Issues: Case Studies

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A number of case studies were developed as part of BCG's Creating People Advantage 2010 report, a global survey undertaken to explore HR practices and methodologies that enable companies to create competitive advantage. The studies examine how individual companies have addressed particular HR issues. Below is the first in the series.

HR for “Googlers”: How a Giant Company Aims to Remain Intimate

Google has an impressive track record and an enviable reputation for people management. It routinely ranks first or near the top in “best places to work” reports. What ingredients account for Google’s success as an employer—beyond, of course, its financial and market success?

Google’s value proposition as an employer combines a laser focus on innovation and smart business practices with a small-company feel that includes direct access to top management. For instance, no one hesitates to pose questions directly to the founders at the weekly all-hands meetings.

The HR management system plays a critical role in keeping this value proposition well tuned and relevant for each successive generation of employees by embedding Google’s mission into daily work life. As Laszlo Bock, vice president of people operations at Google, said in an interview with BCG: “If you talk to anybody at Google and ask them what the mission is, they’ll say, ‘To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’ It’s rare to find a place where everyone knows the mission—and then actually believes it.”

Google’s benefits and compensation packages, renowned for their largess, have a threefold purpose, Bock pointed out. First, to create a community—hence the microkitchens sprinkled around the offices, where people can interact informally. Second, to drive innovation: the more people interact, the higher the likelihood of creating serendipitous sparks of innovation. And third, to promote efficiency: on-site oil changes and dry-cleaning services help hard-working employees save time in their personal lives.

To keep a pulse on how “Googlers” are feeling, which informs talent-management and development programs, HR undertakes a variety of analyses, Bock said. The company monitors retention and attrition and looks for patterns. An annual employee survey plus focus groups throughout the year provide ample qualitative feedback. On the basis of this analysis, upward management feedback gets put into practice. “Every member of our executive team has goals for the year,” Bock said. “These are not amorphous goals, like ‘make the company feel more engaged,’ but very specific, like ‘there were three issues in the sales organization that we will address this year.’”