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Googles Company -- and HR -- Keeps Growing

April 13, 2001
Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Compensation Design and Communication, Featured Article
When Workforce last spoke with Google, they had no turnover, werereceiving enough résumés to sink a ship, and were giving away free gourmetlunches to every employee, every day.

We thought we'd ask HR director Stacy Sullivan if -- and how -- life had changedin the slowing economy. Below, Sullivan talks about how growth is affecting herbenefits, recruiting, and HR technology.

Stacy, I take it you've had to cut back on the food. A few fewer sprinkles onall the free frozen vegan yogurt.
It hasn't changed. The change has been that the food's gotten better. We'veadded another chef as well, a line cook. We have about 180 people, and it wastoo many for the cook. Actually, 225 people are now being served at lunch.
You don't have to be an employee to get a free lunch?
They can bring interview candidates or anyone there for a business-relatedlunch. People often like to do that because we're well known for our great food.People want to meet the chef. He used to be the Grateful Dead's chef.
Have you had increased pressure to justify the business results of all thoselunches?
No, not yet. It's still viewed as a benefit we're going to continue with aslong as we can.
We calculate the salary we pay for the kitchen staff, supplies, overheadcosts. We figure out how much it's costing us per month, per year. Then we'vedecided that it's more than that dollar figure, because of the community andteam-building and bonding it creates. We have more flexibility to do this typeof thing as a private company.
Any plans to cut back?
We'll probably come to the point where we're just subsidizing employees.They'll have to pay a few dollars.
OK. Any changes in your other benefits, including 15 days of vacation thefirst year, and the massages, and the free hockey equipment?
We're still doing everything we did before, and a few more things that really focus on health and well-being. One would be the on-site flu shots we paid for.And we're actually looking at a nurse practitioner who can come to Google one totwo times per week to handle basic issues and ailments. We signed up for acorporate membership at a day-care center. People get a discount on the monthlyfees.
How'd you decide to do the day care?
It's a reflection of the changing demographics of the audience now that manyof our employees--about a dozen over the last six months-have babies. Itprompted us to see how we can look at the whole child-care, day-care issue.
You've got to be cutting back somewhere on the benefits.
Massages were free. There's a minimal copayment now. We didn't put that inplace because of the cost issue. It just was almost too good a deal. Itcontinues to be a big recruiting deal for us.
Let's talk a little about how the economy has changed your recruiting. Youwere getting about 100 résumés a day in October of 2001. How many résumésare you getting now?
We're about double that. About 200 résumés a day.
I guess that's what a lot of layoffs up there in Northern California will do.
Much of the increase in résumés is attributed to our growing success.Strong technology, product name, great reputation in the industry as anincredible place to work, unique culture. We really feel like people want tocome to Google.
We're still small enough that people can come in and have animpact, make a difference. They work on something important. Our charter isabout changing the world, having a positive impact, helping change the lives ofothers.
Where do all the résumés come from?
We post to 10 to 15 job boards. Craig's list, Monster Board. Several of thewomen's organizations--like and the Society of Women Engineers. We'dlove to get more women engineers. Honestly, though, word of mouth, telling afriend. That's where we end up making all the hires.
I know you're a private company, so you're not going to read me a balancesheet, but can you tell me how the economy has generally affected your business?
Our revenues are strong. We're doing as well as we hoped to be doing. We'revery pleased with our results right now, our revenues.
Has it been an advantage to be a private company, where people aren't lookingdown -- literally -- at your stock price every day?
We certainly feel it's an advantage. It gives us a lot more flexibility tofocus on getting things done, continuing to make our business model strong.
Are you finding your compensation got out of whack-you raised salaries a lotduring the boom, and now you've got to break the news to employees that they'regetting a smaller increase this year?
No, we've brought in people with modest salaries. Modest, but competitive. Wewant to wait until we stay in profitability for a few quarters before we pay atthe top of the market. We've been really careful not to bring people in too highfor their positions. So we can reward them when they perform. The equity(private stock) received is significant.
When do employees get this equity?
When you are hired, you get some equity. It vests over four years. And thereare opportunities to get stock grants based on performance at your annualreview.
How about your turnover? How's that changed?
We've only had about two people leave the company (in the last six months).We're probably keeping about 5 percent turnover. About 10 people have left inthe 2 ½ years we've been around.
I've heard you're hiring two to three new people each week. Are those stillmainly engineering types?
No, we've hired a good number of people on the sales side. We've opened upfour sales offices in different parts of the United States.
And these are people who e-mailed résumés coming through your site?
No, we used recruiters. We've used recruiters more in the last four monthsthan in all our history. It's a new area for us (sales). It's tough to pullpeople out of their companies. And the jobs are in various cities in the U.S. --New York, Atlanta, Chicago. It was a more efficient way of getting peopleinto those key areas, rather than relocating people.
What about hiring new HR people?
We've kept all the administrative functions basically flat over the last year- facilities, HR, PR. Marketing's actually been reduced. We tried to keep allthose flat and focus on the engineering and sales side. I don't anticipateneeding to hire someone else over the next six months.
What do employees get for a referral?
If it ends up in a hire, they get a $2,000 bonus. That's the same for allpositions. Their name also goes in a drawing for a Hawaii trip. It's an extraadded incentive for them to think about.
How do you manage these résumés? Do you have one of those resume-sortingprograms?
No. They come through our own system. They're up on the screen and we cansort through type of job, type of area they're coming from. It's time-consuming.We spend two to four hours a day reviewing the résumés and getting them to theright manager.
What other technology are you looking at as you grow so much?
HRMS. We need it. We've been reviewing systems and evaluating them. We'restill trying to tie it to our financial system. We're hoping to have somethingin place next quarter. Right now, all we have is that long, long spreadsheet ofemployee data … 
What else?
We're putting benefits enrollment online. Starting next quarter, new hireswill be able to go in, enter the different plans they want. It will be moreefficient. We're starting to get a little more of everything online. Also, we'reoutsourcing our stock administration. People will be going online in a couple ofweeks, accessing their (private) stock, purchasing their shares.

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