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Why can’t we all be Googley?

by Vanessa L. Goddard

What makes a business a good place to work? Those of you who do not unwind by watching YouTube or reading Wikipedia entries may be surprised to learn a little about Google as an employer. Remarkably, Google has unlimited sick leave—an unheard of, mind-boggling concept. Google has legal aid (ahem). The company has dentists, doctors, dry cleaners, and oil changes on-site. Imagine, if you will, not having to power walk to your car at 5:00 p.m. because the dry cleaner closes at 6:00 p.m. Google also offers ridiculously generous tuition reimbursement, but if you just want to learn oh, say, Mandarin, you can do that at work, too. Ready to apply?

All those perks are stunning wrapping paper topped by a ginormous shiny silver bow and rainbow fireworks of confetti that conceal a basic inner core—the business itself. Google is a great place to work for the same reasons all good employers, big and small, are great places to work: (1) empowerment, (2) trust, (3) fairness, and (4) esprit de corps.

Steps to Googleyness
Empowerment comes from treating employees like responsible adults who know their business. It’s the trust you place in employees to do their jobs well—without micromanaging. It comes with providing challenging work that keeps employees interested, developing their skills, and using their knowledge. Help your employees grow with mentoring, training, stipends for continuing education, or flexibility to allow nontraditional career paths. In short, when you provide your employees meaningful work in a setting in which they know where they stand in achieving the goals of the business, you are providing empowerment.

Trust must be developed from the other direction as well. Employees need to know they can trust management. Building trust can be a matter of sharing information. Just as in your personal day-to-day relationships, open communication with employees is how you build trust. If you can, give your employees a say in how your business operates. That’s not to encourage you to abdicate to the masses, but listening to employees’ ideas, digesting them, and implementing sound suggestions is a trust-building endeavor. Finally, build trust with employees by being a good citizen of your community and the world. Do good deeds together, and reap the rewards of a stronger relationship.

Fairness is a multifaceted trait of a great place to work. It comes with offering competitive pay and benefits. It comes with recognizing that employees have a work-life balance to achieve and helping them do it. Perhaps you have generous leave policies or you trust employees will get their work done when they want to take off an hour to read to their child’s class. Fairness is also reflected in recognizing and rewarding excellence. Nothing is quite so infuriating (and loyalty busting) for star employees as watching mediocre workers get rewarded with the same praise or bonuses. And lastly, fair employers use mistakes as opportunities to grow when possible.

Esprit de corps at our firm, for example, has been called “No Jerks.” At Google, it’s called “Googleyness.” You want to build the right culture for your business and hire people who are a good fit for your culture. Great people will be different for every business. Build camaraderie through teamwork across departments, through fun activities, or through sharing time in nonwork settings. If you like the people you work with, you’re going to like going to work that much more.

Bottom line
It doesn’t take fancy packaging or even a lot of money to create a great place to work. But research shows that it does take trust and fairness. It takes empowerment and the right esprit de corps. Every business can be Googley in its own unique way.

Vanessa L. Goddard is an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC in Morgantown, West Virginia. She may be contacted at vanessa.goddard@steptoe-johnson.com.

Need more help? It can be hard to decide how to best reward employees. You must balance the often-competing forces of market competitiveness, affordability, performance, and fairness. Perceived fairness, or the lack thereof, is often at the root of why employees leave organizations. It also determines if an employee will make an extra effort to reach organizational goals. So it’s vital that your reward programs truly motivate employees from different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures to perform. BLR’s on-demand webinar Reality-Based Rules for Employee Engagement: Beyond Buzzwords to Meaningful Action offers practical examples and tactics to help you assess and improve your employee engagement levels. For more information, click here.