ATC: Sue Polo Engineering and Operations Staffing Director, Google

Sue Polo from Google, Australian readers yes Google HQ, followed Dr Williamson with a fantastic look at not only Google as a corporation but also their staffing challenges. She provided us with so much information I did not get a chance to write many notes as she talked, but here are some of my top takeaways:

  • Google has 21,000 employees and $5.8 Billion revenue in 2008
  • Recruiting is now not the major focus at Google, the first time ever
  • Objectives generally being find them, grow them, keep them – The Google Way
  • A key challenge over the last few years through the dramatic growth has been how to keep their culture
  • You Tube is the 4th largest destination on the web and every minutes 15 hours worth of content is uploaded every day!
  • Food at Google is paramount; no engineer can be more than a 100ft from food!
  • They are now looking to grow their own staff and focusing on internal mobility
  • Nothing is done at Google without hard facts provided by data
  • Almost every decision at Google goes through some form of committee, I found this strange and unexpected. Effectively they strive to meet consensus not a democracy, and decisions are not based on HIPPOs – Highly paid persons opinions
  • Like many organisation they run an Annual Employee Survey:
    • Adoption – 85% of employees participate with tonnes of text feedback
    • Freshness – 70% of survey stays the same with 30% changing every year
    • Transparency – The results are delivered in tag clouds, tech talks, emails, and newsletters. Reports by Geography & Business are given to any manager with an n-count of 7.
  • Last year’s survey results:
    • Underperformance stick out like a sore thumb
    • Underwater options lots of concerns
    • Career development concerns
  • Employees said they would not leave due to the underwater options because the work is engaging!
  • To address the underwater stock they introduced two programs:
    1. TSO, transferrable stock options
    2. A repricing has been done but interesting as a 1:1, which is unique and everyone at Google got to trade, 93% of Googlers took advantage, and the process was done through a custom tool that took 3 clicks
  • Hiring process: initial resume screen, phone screen, then onsite interviews (up to 8 or 9 in a day), reviewed by hiring committees, then finally the executive management team. The committee reviewing and assessing the candidate and will probably not have the hiring manager involved.
  • With employee development the focus is on Google employees training Google employees, as most of the time they have all the experts on staff!
  • Performance Management is done quarterly with a system built in house again highly data driven. For example you can be rated on a scale of 1 to 5 like most organisations BUT at every tenth ie 3.4.
  • Semi Annual promotion process that is peer driven not manager driven
  • 15% is the smallest target bonus in google
  • On the Intranet you can put any title you want on your profile, there are no titles on doors etc, instead you get a special shirt that shows you have been promoted
  • At Google 40% hires are employee referrals
  • Sourcers teach the engineers how to use their networks to find candidates

I had the privilege of speaking with Sue one on one several times over the course of the two days. At one point we went a little deeper into the hiring process. Candidates self assess their technical skills using a scale of 1 to 10. Sue said that if someone puts a 10 down they had better have a) invented the technology, b) been on the industry bodies who invented the technology or c) written the book about it. If not then the person who did will be in the room interviewing you! 

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