How Google Does HR Differently

Google’s approach to HR and Recruiting has always been a much discussed topic in our industry. Their tenacity in seeking out only the best of the best is legendary and their approach has scaled up in line with their rapid growth from small Silicon Valley start-up to a company with a global workforce of 55,000 people.

Google’s SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock has recently published a book called Work Rules which gives a detailed insight into how Google has built its incredible success on the back of an innovative approach to talent.

I was lucky enough to meet Laszlo in person recently and interview him for my podcast. Although our discussion was relatively brief a very clear sense of Google’s unique approach to HR, recruitment and culture came across.

Here are some of the main points we talked about:

Why Google has “People Operations” rather than Human Resources:

Google chooses to brand its HR team as “People Operations”. Initially this was because it was felt that Human Resources was considered to be an old fashioned term by Google’s software engineering employee base. However People Operations has grown to represent a distinct data driven approach that is disrupting many traditionally held HR believes and practices. It is also a brand that a number of Google’s contemporaries have copied and People Operations departments are now becoming a common feature of the tech start up scene.

Recruitment Focused HR:

Google believes that hiring should be the single most important people activity in any organization and they spend more on recruitment than any other HR related activity by a considerable margin. Laszlo believes that if companies hire the right people in the first place then it follows that less needs to be spent on talent management and development.

Line managers shouldn’t be able to make their own recruitment decisions:

Whilst line managers are heavily involved in recruitment process at Google a hiring committee makes the final decision. The thinking here is that if the line manager’s need to fill the gap on their team as quickly as possible it could lead to a drop in quality of the person being hired. Each hire (several hundred a week globally) is also individually ratified by Google’s CEO Larry Page to ensure overall quality is maintained. Google have optimised the hiring process so well it now only takes 45 days, despite all the steps involved

The vital importance of data:

Data informs every aspect of HR at Google and there are a team of data scientists within the People Operations team. Laszlo feels that data and analytics should be an essential element of the people approach in every organisation. However he also feels that HR teams shouldn’t be ruled by data and sometimes “doing the right thing” by their people is more important. He points to Google’s exceptionally generous death in service benefit as an example of this

You can listen to my full conversation with Laszlo by listening to the podcast

Alternatively you can subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher

You can also find it by searching for “Recruiting Future” in any podcast mobile app (I recommend Overcast for iOS or Pocket Casts for Android).