Blogging from Silicon Valley: Google’s HR manual

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The University of Ottawa’s Telfer Executive MBA class visited Google’s main campus in Mountain View to experience first-hand a glimpse at the culture of the most prominent Internet technology company in the world.

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Google rose to prominence with its lean and fast search engine that always seemed to come up with a suggestion for any word or phrase one entered into the system. Over the years, it followed up with its Android mobile operating system, Google Maps with street view, and continue to innovate with wearable Google Glass computer and the self-driving car.

The Silicon Valley area is a hugely competitive environment for attracting and recruiting the brightest technical minds in the industry. It is where the creativity and drive of employees is a company’s most important asset. In Silicon Valley, the culture defined by small, agile, and driven startups. This means Google – which employs more than 20,000 people in the Bay area alone – competes for employees with small businesses and other large employers such as Apple, Oracle, and IBM as well.

In our tour of the Google campus we saw the tangible, measurable perks such as the free food, micro-kitchens, colourful bicycles, plentiful outdoor seating areas and eclectic art works around the campus. We also learned about its inclusive hiring practices and generous benefits. The Telfer Executive MBA course on Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management emphasized how these measurable benefits allow a company to compete and attract top talent. However, we also learned that it is the intangible benefits and culture that maintain an employee’s job satisfaction and helps companies retain people in the long run.

Google encourages risk taking. “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission,” is one of its unofficial mottos to allow for the free flow of ideas that fuel corporate growth and bring satisfaction to the company’s inquisitive work force.

It promotes a healthy workforce and encourages people to spend more time at work with a good supply of free healthy food located within 150 feet of anywhere on campus. Google also promotes social activities to foster interactions amongst co-workers and to encourage a true team environment. These extracurricular interactions serve as avenues to continue generating new ideas. Employee training on new technologies and topics of interest occurs often and are plentiful as a vehicle to prevent complacency and boredom from sapping ambition and drive.

Google has held this corporate culture from the beginning of its existence. Company executives realized that they must continuously and actively instill this culture to their employees, especially as it grew from a startup to a multinational with an employee headcount in the tens of thousands.

A company culture isn’t something one can create with speeches from management and posters plastered on the wall. The whole company, from the top management down, has to live and breathe the culture.

From our short tour of the Google campus we were able to see and feel their culture permeating the company. This has been key to their success and the key to their success in the future.

– By David Fraser

This article is the third in a series this week on the University of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management Executive MBA class trip to the Silicon Valley. The trip is part of the EMBA curriculum on "Innovation and Entrepreneurship."

Organizations: Google, Apple, Oracle IBM Telfer Executive MBA University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management Executive MBA

Geographic location: Silicon Valley

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