Google Searches Itself for Employee Retention

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-05-21 Print this article Print

Human capital management is nothing new, but when you hear Google is doing some form of it internally, your ears perk up a little.

Is Google too big to keep the best and brightest feeling satisfied in their Google work? For some, the answer is yes.

Google, concerned with employee retention after a year of seeing notable executives and others leaving the search/advertising giant, has turned to its own technological strength in algorithms for help, according to a Wall Street Journal piece. From the article:

The move is one of a series Google has made to prevent its most promising engineers, designers and sales executives from leaving at a time when its once-powerful draws -- a start-up atmosphere and soaring stock price -- have been diluted by its growing size. The data crunching supplements more traditional measures like employee training and leadership meetings to evaluate talent.

Google's algorithm helps the company "get inside people's heads even before they know they might leave," said Laszlo Bock, who runs human resources for the company. ...

Current and former Googlers said the company is losing talent because some employees feel they can't make the same impact as the company matures. Several said Google provides little formal career planning, and some found the company's human-resources programs too impersonal.

Whatever the reasons, it seems the company, with its 20,123 employees (based on 2008 numbers), has gotten pretty big for a place trying to keep up a startup culture. As the company expands in revenue size, new markets and new products, the startup culture gets more and more difficult to maintain.

You hear about the amazing free food, the Segways that you can use to get from one part of the Googleplex to the other, all the perks of once highly sought after stock benefits. From the outside, Google seems like an amazing place to work--and it probably still is. It just appears to be more difficult for those who were drawn to that startup culture to make the impact they expected.

Google has touted its "Ten Things" philosophy for some time. One of the "Ten Things" that really sticks out to me in light of this retention issue is the following:

"It's best to do one thing really, really well."

They do search amazingly well, but they do a whole lot more than that in the advertising world, content aggregation, online video, online office and collaboration software, mobile operating systems, etc., etc. Calling it all search is a nice door to a very large room--many rooms, really--that can make it tremendously difficult for those who crave career attention and success to stick around when companies like Facebook, Twitter and others are the new hot thing and on the precipice of morphing beyond what they do really, really well.

For those who have left Google, they have to be saying to themselves: I can have more impact somewhere else. And with Google's name on that resume, it may be quite lucrative to try to make that impact now.

Take a look at what ZDNet's Tom Foremski calls Google's dirty little secret. |

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