Google Hires Managers Not Bosses

By Michael Foy, President of Publishing Search Solutions

Here’s a newsflash. Google does well and continues to enjoy exponential growth. Like most organizational success stories they have an underlying philosophy that they credit for this. Their Senior Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, revealed some of this philosophy in an interview. He had just published a book called Work Rules. It is counter-intuitive. Want to hear his key to their success? Their managers don’t hire or fire or determine raises or bonuses. Yes, you read that right. And it bears repeating. Their managers don’t hire or fire or determine raises or bonuses.

Laszlo explains that employees that need to curry a manager’s favor for their rewards can’t wield their full creative abilities. If, however, a manager acts as an advocate, coach and procurer of resources the relationship turns much more productive for the organization as a whole. The less formal authority a manager has the more latitude his team has to innovate. Decisions are based on data not on managers’ opinions. Who chooses the projects you ask? They are oftentimes determined by the team or team member. Is it any wonder then that Google has been rated the “Best Company to Work For” an unprecedented five times as reported by Fortune magazine?

So Google, an international company, is the best workplace with tens of thousands of employees, very deep pockets, a 30 percent profit margin and an army of PhDs. With those advantages what else would you expect? But as Laszlo cites in his book another company with an equal reputation is Wegmans. Unlike Google, Wegmans is a family owned, Northeast based supermarket chain with a workforce made up of local high school grads in an industry with a 1 percent profit margin. They also provide an extraordinary environment to encourage employee creativity. Like Google, Wegmans enjoys a loyal, productive and stable workforce that provides the foundation for their success.

Treat your people well and provide for their creative freedom. Can that really work? As  proof that it does Laszlo cites several examples in his book. In one case, Mexican factory workers that were given more freedom doubled their productivity relative to those that operated with traditional manager/employee relationships. In another, Costco generated 87% better operating profit per employee as opposed to Sams Club. There are other examples in his book too but the point is to give employees a say and then trust them. If you already have and you’re not nervous you haven’t empowered them enough.

But now let’s address the elephant in the room. Would all employees automatically improve if they were given the freedom to innovate? No. And that’s even the case at Google. To start with any organization still bears the burden of finding and adding the best suited people.

As Laszlo Bock confirms refocusing on hiring better will have a higher return than almost anything else you can do. As such, Google has raised the hiring function to a science. Without getting into the details of their system Laszlo does call out certain truths in his book. A partial list follows.

 

  1. Top performers aren’t looking for work. They’re doing well where they are and are usually rewarded appropriately. Google spends considerable time and internal resources to court those that aren’t looking.
  2. Finding a great person from an inbound application is low. Countless hours are spent sifting through floods of applications from the likes of Monster.com etc… Google stopped posting to job boards in 2012 due to the poor hiring rates from them.
  3. It’s better to hire a high performer from a state school for instance as opposed to a mediocre performer from an Ivy League school.
  4. Finally, once identified, one must give unique candidates a reason to join.

 

Those are obvious, right?  In the interests of full disclosure they are to me maybe because I have the benefit of matching talent to unique working environments in my day job as an Executive Recruiter. Speaking as a recruiter, whether it’s Google or someone else I can appreciate when a client has a critical need for a talented professional that’s key to the company’s growth. But once the hard work of landing a candidate is done doesn’t it make sense to provide a working environment where that person can succeed? Google has learned to leverage people’s creativity to great advantage. But, as in the example of Wegmans, you don’t have to be a Google to do the same.

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Who Likes Recruiters?

By Michael Foy, President of Publishing Search Solutions

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Who does like recruiters? Candidates? Hiring Managers? I’ve been on both sides of that equation and now I am a recruiter. With the benefit of over twenty years of experience I now know that the answer to the question depends on when and how one avails oneself of a recruiter’s advantages.

Let’s tackle a candidate/recruiter relationship first. As an example I’ll recall a time before I joined the recruiting profession, a time when I came to them for help. I think my experience was fairly universal, sometimes comical and perhaps instructive on what a recruiter can really do for a candidate.

When I graduated college I took the summer off but not before contacting a recruiter to at least generate some interview activity. Naively, I thought of him as somewhat of an agent. He actually reinforced that misperception by, among other things, convincing me to take no other action in pursuing my first professional employment gig. That’s something I never ask any of my candidates. Getting a job is a job and it is unfair to limit someone to just one source of job leads. But at that time I thought this is great. I can just leave my fate in the hands of this professional of the job securing arts. In blissfull ignorance I did what most early twenty-somethings do with time on their hands. I went to the beach, socialized, took long rides and generally lollygagged a couple of months away. At least I had the foresight to check with him periodically. His response was always about the same. “You’ve got a good resume for a new grad and I don’t see any difficulty in getting bites on it. It’s just that there’s nothing yet.” Okay, I thought, even though it made me feel a little like a game fish.

Through June and July, I was satisfied with that type of answer and went back on my merry way in wasting time. But by August the light started to dawn on Marblehead. The recruiter had mentioned lots of possibilities to me but without any interviews to show for my faith in him, I decided to abandon that relationship and do my own searching. Ultimately, I landed a position for September. That was about the time he’d called me back to ask if I’d like to interview at three different companies.

The moral here is that recruiters typically do have a great many more connections than candidates. But not all their connections are looking at the same time a candidate is. Also, a hiring manager’s requirements are usually so specific it’s rare that a recruiter has just the right opening for a person in waiting. As an old mentor used to tell me, recruiters are paid to fill the jobs of our clients first, finding jobs for candidates is a happy byproduct. That said, if a candidate receives a call from a recruiter (as opposed to the other way around), expectations of a match can be much much higher. So it’s always a good idea for a candidate to be on a recruiter’s radar.

Next, let’s talk about approaching a recruiter as a hiring manager. From a recruiter’s perspective this is a more straightforward relationship. They’re paid to do a talent search, that in many cases has already been proven to be challenging, and to find the best match. As a hiring manager I had occasion to work with search firms. There were some good retained firms that were periodically paid to be focused but they usually took longer than I liked. And there were some good contingent firms that typically worked more quickly than a retained firm since they weren’t getting paid until the placement was consummated. The trouble with some contingent firms is that they tended to forget about you. From their point of view they’re not being paid by the hour so for difficult searches they’ll put in an initial effort but then move on to the next client if the talent pool didn’t yield immediate results. That was doubly true if they didn’t have an exclusive with the hiring company.

The bottom line is that one needs the right tool for the right job. The type of opening will dictate whether a contingent or retained effort is appropriate. I have often counseled hiring managers about what’s best for their particular needs. Sometimes the answer isn’t obvious. It can even be counter-intuitive.

Have you had any interesting experiences with recruiters? I’d love to hear about them.