Google: the Shangri-La of work-life balance, where free gourmet food is plentiful and employees enjoy three months of parental paid time off.
In 2015, Google’s former Senior Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, wrote a tell-all book that lays out the hiring protocol and workplace culture that set the groundwork for Google’s current HR practices and helped grow the search engine to the the 65,000-person team it has today.
Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead isn’t merely a tantalizing depiction of Googleplex’s massage rooms, napping pods, and extravagant benefits like on-site fitness rooms, laundromats and intimate lecture series with celebrities and politicians.
Work Rules! provides advice on several aspects of HR operations — from hiring to pay structure to improving workplace culture. The book is both a meditative take on role of human services as well as a manual on how to implement a streamlined employee management system.
Here are 3 takeaways from the book HR execs need to know:
1. No Two Interviews Should be Alike
Work Rules! dictates some heavy-handed theories on how to improve the interview system. Bock compares traditional interviews to the SAT, citing that the nation’s college admissions test “consistently underpredicts how women and non-whites will perform in college.”
Similarly, he says that unstructured interviews can only predict 14 percent of an employee’s performance. He encourages hiring managers to provide work sample tests for their candidates, which he says predict 29 percent of a potential hire’s work ethic and process.
Interviews should be treated as an art form, and no two interviews should be conducted the same way. This is so that the interviewer doesn’t get bored and to prevent interviewees from sharing information with other interviewees. Bock recommends mixing it up during the interview, throwing in a combination of cognitive assessment questions with queries that determine a worker’s conscientiousness.
This approach to hiring is built into Google’s qDroid, the algorithm that Google uses to evaluate potential hires. qDroid gives interviewees a comprehensive set of questions based on the job they’re vying for and specific aspects pertaining to the role. The questions scrutinize a person’s work behaviors and self-esteem level, like, “Tell me about a time you had difficulty working with someone?” And every question is proceeded with a handful of follow-up queries. “Fight for quality” is Bock’s hiring mantra, and the success of Google’s hiring process is a testament to this approach’s success.
2. Reject Hierarchy, Employees Should “Run the Asylum”
Bock believes that Google’s employees are the company’s most vital facet. He never made hard and fast policies, and he was always tinkering with the mechanics of the workflow and culture services. He rejects the notion of a typical hierarchy and views employees as the people who “run the asylum” and should be given every freedom to do so. Bock says the most effective team is the one that holds the power, not the supervisors or managers. Work Rules! heavily promotes the philosophy that workers thrive when they’re thrown into an innovative and collaborative environment.
3. Give Your Employees Unbridled Freedom
Google attributed its high retention and worker performance to its 80/20 system, where employees do work for the company 80 percent of the week and dedicate the other 20 percent to personal projects and causes they’re passionate about. Other companies such as Tom’s of Maine and Hootsuite have followed suit with similar programs.
The 80/20 program derives from a theory conceived by 19th century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto that 80 percent of an organization’s productivity is a result of only 20 percent of effort. Although Google has since axed the program, it remains a cornerstone of Bock’s work culture paradigm.
Employee freedom isn’t just about allowing workers to pursue personal endeavors, it’s giving them the confidence to operate at their own style and pace. Since Google went public, employee retention has remained at a steady high and putting trust into their workers has produced incredible levels of productivity and innovation.
“The important thing to note is that you don’t need a lot of money to do what Google has done. If you give people freedom, they will amaze you,” said Bock.
Depending on the services and products your company offers, this could mean flexible hours; self-designed work roles; the option to work remotely; and creating a smaller gap between supervisors and employees (i.e., encouraging more open dialogue between the two).
“If you’re comfortable with the amount of freedom you’ve given your employees, you haven’t gone far enough,” Bock said. For HR folks, those are words to take to heart.