Empowering Employees

Can Your Company Learn from Google when Empowering Employees?

In our last article, we looked at five of the benefits an organization receives when it puts in place strategies aimed at empowering employees. One of the best examples in today’s business world of empowering employees in action is Google. The benefits of its strategy has seen its innovative pipeline work like a conveyor belt, and has increased the wealth of its executives, employees, and shareholders (a $10,000 investment made at the time of the IPO in 2004 would now be worth around $150 million).

Incentivizing employees vs empowering employees

It’s true that Google has some fantastic staff benefits and incentive programs, but these shouldn’t be confused with its employee empowerment strategies. Employee perks include free fitness sessions with a personal trainer; birthday massages; sleeping pods; access to a free doctor; free laundry service; and free use of cars during working hours. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals at work are free, too, and include sushi, steak, and homemade pizza. Unsurprisingly, Google ranks as the best company to work for in the United States – a position it has now held for six consecutive years.

However, it is not only for its incentives and benefits packages that Google is voted into the top spot of companies to work for. As its Senior Vice President of Google’s People Operations told Forbes in 2013, “We try to have as many channels for expression as we can, recognizing that different people, and different ideas, will percolate up in different ways.”

What Bock is talking about are the ways in which Google takes empowering employees to a new level, creating its innovative product conveyor belt.

Seven ways in which Google empowers its employees

The fact that Google has a People Operations segment tells a story in itself, but it is the strategies and methods by which its operations are found to be empowering employees that creates a buzz of excitement throughout Google’s workforce.

It regularly conducts employee surveys to measure satisfaction levels. In its August 2014 survey, it achieved a 99% rating in great challenges at work, 99% approval on atmosphere, rewards and pride in the job, and a 98% score on communication and bosses. One respondent said, “Innovation is the driver of everything we do. I can take pride in that. No one settles for less than their best.”

Here are seven ways in which Google empowers its people and is rewarded by increased creativity, loyalty, and productivity:

  • Google Cafes encourage people from different teams to interact and exchange ideas
  • Employees are encouraged to directly email any of the company’s leaders
  • ‘Google Moderator’ is a tool that allows anyone to ask a question at a team meeting, with all team members voting on the questions they most want answered
  • ‘20 Percent’ is a working method that allows Google employees to spend 20% of their time on things that interest them most, to generate transformative ideas. Google Moderator came out of this initiative, as did Google Maps
  • TGIF is an end of week session in which all employees can ask questions directly to Google’s executives
  • The Google Universal Ticketing System (GUTS) allows employees to file their problems centrally, and these are then collated to find the most common problems or patterns that need to be addressed
  • ‘Googlegeist’ surveys encourage feedback on hundreds of company issues. Teams of volunteers are then created from across the company to solve these problems

Throughout these initiatives, employees are continually challenged to be creative and problem solve. The organizational culture is one of open communication, encouraging people to find meaning in their work and shape their environment and career prospects.

The Google culture of empowering employees

Google places its employees at the heart of its business strategy, and its empowering initiatives ensure that employees:

  • Feel valued and know that their opinions are valued likewise
  • Have purpose in their work
  • Are made to feel that they own their jobs, and that the responsibility for performance is down to them. This encourages them to work hard to achieve the company’s strategic goals
  • Take pride in their work, quality of products and service to customers

With an empowered workforce, your organization can reap the benefits experienced by Google. In the next article, we’ll look at three other companies that have benefitted similarly by empowering employees.

At Forward Focus we partner with clients to produce and manage business consulting services, tailor made to the needs of the client and designed to unlock the power of proven strategies such as employee empowerment. If you would like to know more, please contact us today.


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