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A Look at Google's Vital Signs

October 1, 2000
Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Benefit Design and Communication, Featured Article
Google, located in Mountain View, California, has become the search engineof choice for many people, despite little marketing. Meanwhile, Google hasachieved virtually no turnover and receives almost 100 fresh resumes each day.

Here's a quick look at their employees,their benefits and work/life balance, their employee relations, recruiting andretention and business results.


Google's approximate department breakdown:

  • 55 in engineering

  • 10 in operations

  • 15 in business development

  • 4 in finance

  • 4 in corporate communications(P.R.)

  • 10 in marketing

  • 6 in facilities

  • 5 in human resources

HR is headed by Stacy Sullivan, who was with Silicon Graphics for 12 yearsbefore coming to Google last December.

"We have five HR people total," she says. "Three of them arein recruiting, or recruiting-related functions. There's another person with mewho handles documents, HRIS, that type of things. We have one more contractrecruiter and hire more as necessary."

Sullivan says they use some compensation consultants to coordinate theirprivate stock program and other programs. They don't have an HRIS system set upyet but are evaluating it. "We're going to be putting more formal (HR)systems in place," she says.

Benefits and Balance:

Google's employees get 15 days of vacation their first year. "I did alot of benchmarking before I put that in place," says Sullivan. BeforeSullivan took over, employees got about two weeks vacation and 4-5 sick days.Now they receive the three weeks' vacation and "sick time based onneed."

Says Sullivan, "We wanted to be over-competitive. And most people seemto like the separation of vacation and sick time … we don't want to encouragepeople to come to work if they're sick."

Google's other benefits include massages as well as weekly hockey games,with equipment subsidized by the company. "Our focus is to make this areally great place to spend their work time," Sullivan says. "Part ofwhat (founders) Larry and Sergey thought about was they wanted to bring thiswonderful technology together with a fabulous work environment. So they put inplace all these nice perks we have. They really wanted to make it a reallyfriendly place, encourage extra-curricular activities."

Google starts 401ks when employees begin work, not after a specifiedprobationary period.

Employee Relations:

Google has become a media darling, partly for offering free, gourmet lunchesdaily. These lunches include dishes catering to Northern Californian tastes,from vegan chocolate mousse to tofu with mushrooms.

Sullivan says they recently did a cost-analysis of the lunches, somethingthey try to do every quarter, and is confident they pay off. Interestingly,Google sees all this tortellini not so much as a retention benefit, but ratheran employee-relations tool. Lunches and other social lubricants have helpedbridge the gap between techies and non-techies, whose lack of communication iswell-known throughout the dot-com world.

"The primary reason for doing it is people go in there, sit down, getto know whoever they're eating with," she says. "Bringing us togetherto share our culture is worth its weight in gold," she says. "Peoplehardly ever leave the building. It's very positive."

"Everyone (on management) likes the benefits," Sullivan says."The cost is so minimal compared to the impact it has had retainingpeople."

As far as work/life balance, Sullivan herself has two small children athome; she leaves at 6:00 p.m. each day and puts in a couple of hours of work athome later at night. "Everybody's really cool about that. The average ageis 30 but other people do have other things to do," including, she said,families in many cases. "We're not judging people based on facetime, we're judging people based on results."

This isn't to say the Googlers have it easy, and that they don't put intheir share of late nights. "We are a private company we're all partowners of," says p.r. manager Bill Dixon. "We get committed.Sometimes we get carried away."

Recruiting and Retention:

Google gets close to 100 resumes each day sent through its Web site."Some days more than that," says Sullivan. "We have 3-4 peoplestarting each week. We've been hiring aggressively."

About half of the 100 resumes are technical types, and as far as the otherhalf, "We just opened up a slew of marketing and p.r. opportunities. We'reprobably getting close to 50 on the non- tech side."

Google's employee-referral program brings in about 40-50% of its employees.Employees get two grand when one of their referrals starts work. "We'vegot a nice program -- we didn't want to give an exorbitant amount ofmoney," says Sullivan.

When it comes to the 50-60% of recruits not from employee referrals, Google'srecruiters rely mainly on buzz. This is similar to what the company does as awhole, pouring more time and energy and money into its product than itsmarketing. "We use the same philosophy as general marketing. We're tryingto position it around word of mouth."

In an effort to find more female technical employees, they've gotten"heavily involved in at least five different women's societies."They've also advertised around movie theaters. "We haven't done any newspaperadvertising and don't have plans to do that," Sullivan says. "And wehaven't used recruiters for the most part."

Many employees have come out of academia. They've put their Ph.D.s on holdto work at Google. They had four interns last summer who never went back toschool.

Despite close to zero turnover, Sullivan says "We don't focus primarilyon retaining." This is because they don't need to. "We've lostprobably two people ever. Morale is very high … people are very psyched to comework here."

Despite the constant hiring, they're still taking the time to welcome newhires. This includes introducing them and their outside-of-work interests everyFriday at the weekly staff meetings.

Business Results:

Google isn't a public company, so we don't know how much money they make.P.R. manager Bill Dixon says, "We're either on target or ahead of ourrevenue targets. We're very pleased about how we're hitting. And we have theventure capitalists looking over our shoulders (to make sure everything's on track)."

Indeed, Google has become a household word, with very limited marketing.It's now the search engine of choice for Yahoo!, and has focused only on whatit does best -- search results -- without adding the horoscopes, weatherreports and the potpourri of other functions the other search engines offer.

Furthermore, while we don't know the overall company's business results, we do know what has occurred with perhaps HR's most important metric: retention.

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