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Thursday, January 31, 2013

HR Confidential: The Secret to Google's Happy Employees

Google Envy /goo'gl 'envee/ (noun): A feeling of discontented or resentful longing to work at Google, usually brought on by talking to Google employees about their fantastic employee benefits.

Admit it: You've felt Google Envy. You've daydreamed about the on-site child care, the generous paid leave, the free Super Bowl tickets... (That last one might have been an exaggeration.) And who could blame you? It's impossible not to marvel at how well Google treats its employees.

Full disclosure: One of our fantastic program managers is married to a Google employee.

Although it's easy to scoff at Google's generosity, make no mistake -- they know exactly what they're doing. Google's HR was the subject of a fascinating piece at Slate.com last week, which I encourage you to read. Everything they do is driven by data.

Google calls its HR "People Operations" (POPS), and their job is to take on the tough questions that other companies miss:
  • Why are women leaving the company at higher rates than men? (Answer: They need more paid maternity leave.)
  • How many job interviews is enough? (Answer: Four.)
  • Does middle management really matter? (Answer: Yes; the best mid-level managers have lower attrition rates.)

For me, the big takeaway from Slate's article is that Google's benefits aren't random acts of kindness -- they're clear-headed business decisions. Google's generous maternity leave policy, to use just one example, is aimed at retaining talented women and avoiding the long-term cost of attrition. It's a win-win for both employer and employee.

Those of us in the employee wellness arena should bring this argument to our prospective clients. Wellness programs are proven to reduce long-term health care costs, but they can do so much more. Boosting productivity, raising morale, and improving retention rates also impact the bottom line, and we should make this point whenever the subject of ROI is raised.

What do you think about Google's benefits? How do they compare with life outside of Silicon Valley? Let me know what you think.

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