Google is often lauded as one of the best organizational cultures, not just in tech, but in any industry. They’re known for their perks; subsidized massages, bowling alleys, chef-prepared meals, free haircuts, the list goes on and on. They also have a large team of people dedicated to figuring out how to make their employees the happiest, healthiest, and most motivated people on the planet. They call this department People Operations and within it they have People Analytics, a team who collects data on Google employees to determine how to optimize the workplace for maximum efficiency. Many companies don’t have the luxury of a People Analytics team. They also don’t have people with PhDs in organizational psychology telling us how to make our employees happier.
What we can do though, is learn from Google’s deep analysis and apply their learnings to our own companies to promote happier, more motivated teams.
Getting a pulse on employee satisfaction
Google measures everything about people operations in their offices, down to how long the lunch line should be to allow employees to meet new people, but not waste too much time.
If you don’t have the resources to track everything Google does (and let’s face it, few of us do) send out a quick survey to collect some quantitative information. TinyPulse and Culture Amp both offer quick, easy ways to request employee feedback and identify areas where the organization could improve. Not ready for a survey just yet? Speak to some of your employees in a formal or informal way. Start with just asking what’s going right and what could be better. It’s amazing what a few conversations with employees could uncover.
Encourage work relationships
Google found that long lunch tables promote more employee interaction because they’re accommodating for both large and small groups. Employees are exposed to more people in the office and we all know that having friends at work makes you more productive and happier overall.
Many times, when we hear “team building activities” we groan with dread. Sometimes these events, full of ice breakers and forced conversations, can ring hollow with employees. A weekly team lunch or even quick coffee breaks with a few team members are great options to get people out of their work mode mindset. Many employees are worried about socializing too much on the job so as not to appear like they’re slacking off. The time spent on socializing is made up for in productivity thanks to happier employees.
Breaking down barriers in communication
Google is known for its flat structure, meaning even middle and upper management are quite hands on. There is less of a top-down hierarchy that many traditional organizations favor. One of the biggest barriers in communication is a fear to speak up about an issue or an opposing idea. The lack of barriers in organizational structure and corporate hierarchy generally leads to more open and easier communication amongst a team. We know that more open communication promotes higher employee engagement across organizations. It also means lots of different ideas are voiced. With open discussions, the best ideas can float to the top. Laszlo Bock, the Senior Vice President of People Operations says “It’s a robust, data-driven discussion that brings the best ideas to light so that when a decision is made it leaves the dissenters with enough context to understand and respect the rationale for the decision, even if they disagree with the outcome.”
Making the first week for new employees really count
A manager who greets a new employee with a simple “great to meet you, we’ll be working together” along with setting some clear intentions for the employee leads to a 15% increase in productivity in the next nine months. The first impression that an employee has of a company shapes their perception for a long time.
Ensure that when you’re bringing new employees on board, they have a chance to get to know their teammates, have a scheduled check in with their manager, and ideally have some initiatives to work toward. This will allow them to start gaining momentum and begin building relationships within the company right away.
Setting managers up for success
Thanks to Google-backed research on performance reviews, we know some habits that make a great manager. Here are some qualities employees value most in a manager in order of importance:
- Coach effectively by providing specific, constructive feedback. Be sure to include both positive and negative feedback. Schedule regular check ins with employees.
- Balance giving employees support vs. freedom to own their own projects
- Get to know employees as whole people, with interests outside work
- Be results-oriented and help the team prioritize work to attain desired goals
- Listen. Communicate effectively by sharing goals but also listening to employees if they express concerns or suggestions.
- Focus on career development
Employees also want a clear direction and strategy for the team. Everyone wants to feel that they’re contributing to something but if goals are unclear or constantly shifting, employees will disengage.
Encourage participation and transparency
Avoid “gotcha” moments and instead recognize employees for positive contributions. We’ve learned at SafetyCulture that a lot of times the term “audit” can be intimidating for employees because they think managers are just looking for things to criticize. In reality, the audits are a great opportunity to identify where employees are excelling as well. Make sure the culture you’re promoting isn’t just about catching employees in “gotcha” moments, but also about highlighting things that they’re doing really well.
With a few simple tweaks, you’ll not only attract top talent for your organization, but retain the talent you have currently. Hiring and training new employees can be costly to organizations, no matter the size. Ensure that when you do start a new teammate, they’ll be invested enough in the company to stay for the long haul.
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