How Google Motivates Their Employees? A Case Study

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In terms of employee motivation, Google Company stands out. The Institute of Great Place of Work and Fortune Magazine established the company as the best in terms of employee satisfaction in 2014. This ranking was the fifth time the company topped the list compiled by the two organizations (The Guardian 2014). Being the best company for one to work for has led to its attraction of large talented and innovative patronage of employees.

The Guardian (2014) approximates that the company had employed more than 50,000 employees in its global operations by 2014. Amid its deployment of attractive packages and wild treatments of employees, the company is also able to attract some of the most productive ideas for its employees to create a global leading productivity that has seen the company record an increased competitive advantage. Why does the company have employee-centered policies? The Guardian (2014) suggests that the company emphasizes employee motivation.

Like any other organization, Google Company delivers services to its customers via employees. Customers have optimal satisfaction with services and products offered by an organization when employee motivation initiatives incorporate the respective firms’ goals, aims, and objectives. Organizations that seek to improve on employee motivation focus on ensuring the satisfaction of their workers in terms of fulfillment of their needs. They also focus on ensuring that employees execute their responsibilities much quicker through the establishment of inspirational programs.

This paper assesses Google’s way of motivating its employees. The goal is to establish evidence-based mechanisms for ensuring optimal outputs of an organization through the development of culture and policies that are organized around the employee as the source of competitive advantage. The paper is significant to other organizations since it establishes an approach from which other organizations that seek to increase their long-term success based on employee motivation can benchmark.

This paper is divided into three sections. The first section conducts an assessment and critical evaluation of Google’s way of motivating employees using models and theories where appropriate. The second section focuses on the critical evaluation of Google CEO’s leadership styles with the objective of determining what makes them successful. Organizational structure has implications in terms of how employees articulate issues or contribute to the development of policies that steer innovation and creativity or mitigation of conflicts, which function as a detriment to the company’s collective success. From the paradigms of this assertion, the third section analyses how Google’s structure contributes to the success of the organization.

How Google Motivates Their Employees

Motivation constitutes an important aspect of increasing employee productivity. Wright and Gardner (2005) posit that motivation acts as a key component of encouraging people within an organization to embrace creative thinking, which enhances innovation in the conception of new technologies. Information from Business Case Studies (2013) reveals that motivation entails the art and science of ensuring that people do what a leader wants them to do simply because they want and are interested in doing it.

This claim suggests that motivation encompasses a formula that organizational leaders can deploy to ensure that employees optimally achieve what the leader wants them to attain. As evidenced by the case of Google Company, this process also involves inspiration, which emphasizes getting people to work, simply because they want to, with the objective of attaining a long-term goal (Tsai & Beverton 2007).

Google’s initiative of getting the most out of employees while ensuring their satisfaction blends both aspects of motivation and Inspiration. Inspiration relies on people’s feelings. Motivated people look up to the incoming things, which they work tirelessly to achieve. Inspiration involves looking for the big thing that constitutes the bigger organizational picture all the time. Hence, the focus of motivation is on gains in the short-term while inspiration is about remaining steadily focused on the bigger picture. Indeed, Google motivates and inspires its employees to attract and keep the top talent. The company inculcates a democratic culture and structure in which employees are given an opportunity to express their voices and values (The Guardian 2014).

Work monotony is detrimental to the maintenance of employees’ enthusiasm (Lee 2013). This situation reduces employees’ levels of motivation. Google counters work monotony by ensuring that work is inspirational. For example, the company gives employees 20% of their total weekly work time (equivalent to 1 week) to participate in projects of their choice. Attempts to inspire employees have already born fruits for Google Company as evidenced by the case of Chande-Ment Tan through the innovation of Inside Yourself course (The Guardian 2014).

The company has uncommon, yet affordable and amazing rewards and benefits packages that are designed to ensure that employees feel valued by the company. For example, the company has reimbursement programs catering for legal fees for its employees by an amount of up to $5000 (The Guardian 2014). It provides maternity leaves for up to 18 weeks where parents get up to $500 for spending on take-out meals for the first 3 months after giving birth. It has an adoption assistance package for parents who have adopted kids. In Googleplex, the company provides employees with an onsite doctor and fitness center (The Guardian 2014).

Google Company provides free meals such as lunch and dinner, including other numerous attractive motivational strategies that ensure that employees feel their work environment is attractive and promising. This strategy encourages them to wake up every morning to attend their daily cores. From the perspectives of the range of motivation initiatives adopted by Google Company, motivation involves the control of people’s beliefs, steps, and actions. When this control is lost, the willpower, which is the basic tenet of motivation, may be misplaced. Under such circumstances, people may become judgmental, especially on the major things they have not accomplished.

The motivational initiatives adopted by Google as discussed above and in detail by The Guardian (2014) are important in ensuring that the company fully uses employees as one of the most important resources for gaining competitive advantage. However, an important question arises on whether attempts such as the creation and maintenance of fun in the workplace are backed by scholarly research, especially in terms of the capacity of fun to enhance employee motivation, which can increase the organizations’ outputs through inducing workers commitment.

Newstrom (2010) discusses the role of managers in ensuring fun in workplaces. Similar to the approaches deployed by Google Company to address the issue of fun in its workplace, the author defines fun in workplaces as ‘any social, interpersonal, or job-related activity of either a humorous or playful nature that a person finds enjoyable and interesting’ (Newstrom 2010, p. 4). Fun in the workplace emanates from anything ranging from office celebrations to making jokes or engaging in plays with co-workers. Lamm and Meeks (2010), Tews, Michel, Bartlett (2012), and Vijay and Vazirani (2011) suggest that fun in workplaces is important in enhancing the productivity of workers through increased job motivation. Fun in the administrative centers ensures that people have vigor, energy, and enthusiasm to do work. Google Company employs strategies for inducing fun in workplaces as discussed by The Guardian (2014) to achieve similar outcomes.

Choi, Kwon, and Kim (2011) confirm how workplace fun among Yers has important pros in an organization. They assert that attitudes of people who belong to Generation Y in the workplace fun incredibly influence their actual experience in workplace fun (Choi, Kwon, & Kim 2011). Expressed fun in the workplace, in turn, has the pros of ensuring better job satisfaction, increased performance, and better interpersonal task performance (Choi, Kwon, & Kim 2011).

The researchers conclude that the pros are important to all hospitality industry employers who encounter hardships in the process of attracting the best talents. Hence, Google Company’s use of strategies for creating fun in the workplace receives scholarly support based on the strategies’ effectiveness to attract and maintain top talent, even in other industries.

Google’s CEO Leadership Styles

Leadership is instrumental in fostering the growth of Google Company, especially when it comes to creating a culture that incubates innovation and creativity while promoting employee freedom, which comes with better organizational performance. Corporate values and governance have also been pivotal in supporting the company’s business success (Thomson & Media 2016). Indeed, Edenlman and Eisenmann (2011) report the high economic performance of the organization in comparison with its competitors by 2008. This success attracted the attention of Yahoo Company in 2012 to the extent that it sought the help of Marissa Mayer, a former Google Company’s CEO, to bring in her leadership expertise to Yahoo Company. Hence, leadership is critical for the success of any organization, irrespective of the industry in which it operates.

After its IPO, Google dedicated much of its efforts in developing Gmail, Google Maps, Docs, Check-Out, Google Books, finance, and calendar among others. The company not only endeavored to compete with web service organizations such as and MSN but also online sales organizations, for instance, Amazon and eBay. Google employees develop most of these applications during their free time, which is roughly 20% of their total working time (The Guardian 2014).

For example, Kelvin Gibbs, one of Google’s employees, developed ‘Google Suggest’ within his 20% free time that is usually offered for doing what an employee likes most. Hence, the company’s leadership encourages employee participation in decision-making and selection of projects that may become the best thing in the internet applications industry. Therefore, the company’s CEO leadership styles can best be described as democratic. Support for employees’ voices and value systems at the company evidences this assertion (The Guardian 2014).

Goole Company holds forums for employees in each Friday where 20 of the most asked questions are discussed. The company offers various channels, including surveys, Fixits, TGIF, and Google+ conversations for the employees to freely express themselves to all Google leaders (The Guardian 2014). Various initiatives and procedures encourage transparency and knowledge sharing among the employees and the organizational leadership.

Since the CEO of any company is responsible for setting the organizational culture and/or ensuring that the culture implemented, Google Company’s CEO is a democratic leader who upholds employee inspiration and motivation (Manimala & Wasdani 2013). Google Company deploys various leadership approaches to guarantee the collective success of employees for them to contribute towards the creation of new products and delivery of services in a timely and efficient manner in an environment that is characterized by increased fun and flexibility. Hence, a question emerges concerning the leadership styles that best capture the management approaches adopted by the company’s CEO.

Operating in an environment that is marked by the changing technology in the information sector creates situations that require the adoption of appropriate leadership styles that guarantee an ardent response to such situations to attain business continuity (Schaubroeck, Lam, & Cha 2007; Cote et al. 2010).

Can situational leadership styles describe fully leadership approaches of Google’s CEO? The situational leadership theory asserts that leaders determine the most appropriate mechanisms for conducting leadership roles based on variables, which capture the current situation. The school of thought may find application at Google since leadership situations keep on changing, depending on the emerging technological developments.

In Google Company, situational leaders can help in the resolution of the challenges that result from cases of changing goals and/or the process of developing new cell phone product lines when new cell phone applications emerge. The contribution of situational leadership theory in explaining the role of leadership in enhancing the performance of Google is evident upon appreciating that specific scenarios that require decision-making call for the deployment of different forms of leadership styles. For example, when leaders possess high experience and knowledge on the most effective ways of driving organizational success, the authoritarian leadership style is most preferred (Higgs 2003).

Nevertheless, this style does not find any application in Google Company since leadership approaches for Google allows employees to freely implement communicated visions to them (Manimala & Wasdani 2013). Hence, the CEO of the company is democratic. This style of leadership gives employees an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. This situation motivates them to the extent of leading to high productivity and excellent performance. Indeed, Google Company’s approaches to inspiring and motivating its employees evidence higher scores after adopting the democratic leadership style.

Leadership is a necessary success factor of any organization. It integrates and followers and leaders while at the same time influencing organizational objectives and missions and other organizational stakeholders (Sakiru & D’silva 2013). While leading, followers must be involved. This situation perhaps explains why Google Company involves its employees by communicating and sharing with them the materials discussed between the board and organizational managers (The Guardian 2014). Surveys are also done to identify the response of employees on various policy initiatives.

For Google Company, the cell phone unit has encountered rapid changes, right from developing better performing products to the incorporation of new features. The companies invest heavily in research and development to ensure that cell phones remain competitive in comparison with other organizations that design and supply cell phones to the global market. Consequently, a major concern has been on how to lead product development teams to ensure that the organization remains profitable, amid the sporadic product changes from time to time. In fact, different organizational situations require the deployment of different leadership styles.

Veysel (2014) identifies transactional and transformational leadership as important leadership techniques for organizations such as Google among other businesses that are going through continuous change. Leaders act vision carriers in an organization. They also strategize on how to achieve visions through people. Hence, some organizations perform better compared to others, depending on their capacity to adopt leadership styles that meet the demands of the emerging situations, especially during change.

Kouzes (2007) and Lewis (2007) assert that the ability to lead can be achieved through experience and the sharing of knowledge that is acquired with time. This claim opposes the arguments developed by the trait leadership theory that holds that leaders are born, but not created. Google Company encourages knowledge sharing by freely allowing employees to convene at selected meeting points within the organization at any time they wish. This strategy permits knowledge and experience sharing. To this extent, trait leadership is not applicable to Google. Ng, Ang, and Chan (2008) reckon that trait leadership hypothesis suffers from reliability and validity issues since not all people who possess qualities of effective leadership identified by the theory make great leaders.

The demerits of deploying the trait leadership school of thought to explain organizational leadership led to the emergence of other leading schools of thought such as contingency leadership theories. Contingency leadership theories focus on particular factors that define an environment in terms of determining an effective leadership style. Peretomode (2012) provides examples of contingency theories of leadership such as the theory of effective leadership advanced by Fielder, strategic contingency theory, and cognitive resource theory.

Transformational and transactional leadership styles are important in an organization under different circumstances. Transformational leaders have the capacity to set visions and inspirations that are necessary for the followers. Such leaders assess situations of their organizations to facilitate the formulation of strategies for raising growth and overcoming various environmental challenges (Sakiru & D’silva 2013).

Transformational leaders have skills for adequate and effective communication of success strategies and vision to all employees. Communication is essential in the endeavor to create good relationships. Indeed, resolving operational challenges such as employee turnover demands the ability to conduct good vertical and horizontal communication (Basri, Rusdi, & Sulaeman 2014). Google’s CEO is incredibly talented in this area.

As witnessed in the case of Google as discussed by The Guardian (2014), transactional leaders build organizational success by optimizing employees’ abilities through motivation (Veysel 2014). Google is highly cognizant of circumstances that contribute to employee ineffectiveness. Transactional leaders possess the capability to identify circumstances and/or develop appropriate motivational models that ensure high retention of innovative and creative employees. In fact, at Google Company, employee innovation and creativity is critical in driving organizational competitive advantage by helping in creating new products and services.

Google’s Structure

Organizational structure defines directions of the flow of command. Google’s organizational structure has a flat hierarchies. The Guardian (2014, Para. 12) reckons that due to the structure, ‘engineers have plenty of flexibility when it comes to selecting the projects they work on’. How then does its structure contribute to enhancing the company’s success? The Guardian (2014) offers a response to this query when it notes that Google’s way of motivating its employees leads to developing more innovative products. Employees become more entrepreneurial in their work. Google’s strategy reduces operation risks in the organization.

Smithson (2015, Para. 3) supports this assertion b claiming, ‘Google’s success is linked to the effectiveness of its organizational structure and organizational culture in supporting excellence in innovation’. The company does not deploy conventional organizational structure, which is essentially hierarchical in nature.

The company’s organizational culture is unique. It focuses on enhancing social links between employees and the leadership. Smithson (2015) argues that the theory indicates that when an organization establishes a strong alignment between its structure and its culture, chances of success increase. Such a benefit is evident in the case of Google Company. The company experiences a continuous expansion of its product lines, which are accompanied by business prosperity. Hence, today’s immense growth of the company and its market leadership may be related to synergistic outcomes of establishing a proper link between its structure and culture.

Google’s structure ensures the maximization of the effectiveness of its innovation. Smithson (2015) asserts that the company possesses a cross-functional structure. The structure ‘is technically a matrix organizational structure with considerable degrees of flatness’ (Smithson 2015, Para.5). Hence, its structure is functional-based, product-based, and has a perspective of monotony. This structure is well adapted to meet the company’s business success.

It groups its employees based on their functional responsibilities. Typical functional divisions of the company include sales, marketing, and software engineering design. It also groups employees based on products that they are in charge of developing and managing. For example, it has a group in charge of Nexus devices. Another group is in charge of the fiber business.

Flat structure implies that an employee at Google can bypass a line manager to report without impediments to Larry Page, the CEO. Hence, where perceptions reveal that middle managers can pass on certain innovation as their ideas while the ideas are part of low-level employees’ efforts, the idea developer has no fear of sharing the innovation with the company, as he or she can directly report to the CEO. This case has the merit of ensuring that the company does not leave some of its ideas not communicated and deliberated. Hence, each idea can be evaluated based on its capacity to contribute to new products or services, which are critical in the company’s continuous success.

At Google, employees are given platforms for sharing information at any time in the company’s meeting points. This plan encourages knowledge sharing, which is necessary for creativity and innovation. At an individual level, theories of innovation and creativity argue that creativity and innovation may emanate from a conducive social environment (Mauzy & Harriman 2003) and inspiration development during people’s life span (Nickerson 2001).

At an organizational level, innovation and creativity can emanate from the interaction of various components. These factors include information, imaginative thinking, and enthusiasm (Blanton 2009). Consistent with this assertion, Google Company culture or structure encourages motivation and social networking between employees. Thus, it is not coincidental that Google Company’s structure guarantees success.


Google Company toped in 2014 in the list of the best companies where one can work. It has exemplary strategies for ensuring that employees work effectively in a fun-oriented workplace. The initiatives of the company’s founders look for ways of caring for people by benchmarking from best-in-class organizations that build their long-term competitive advantage around people who have born fruits.

Google Company ensures that its workplace is enjoyable, motivational, and inspirational. This atmosphere has come with the creation of an organizational structure and culture that encourage creativity and innovation. In fact, the paper has argued that the company’s CEO deploys various leadership styles, including democratic, transformational, and transactional techniques, depending on the appropriate situation that requires his leadership to drive organizational success.


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