An organizational culture that aims at motivating employees is one of the latest management buzzwords. Motivation influences individuals to behave are a stipulated manner again. The factors that affect attitude of individuals form the basis of motivation at work (Herzberg and Snyderman). But what are these factors that motivate an individual to perform well? Organization behavior provides various answers to support this question; there are different theories which have been formulated by different schools of thought to explain the factors which can lead to motivation. It is important for organizations and their leadership to know the factors which will motivate their employees to work and so this is a constant pursuit for many corporate. Few companies succeed and few do not. In this paper, we will analyze the strategy adopted by Google Inc. to motivate its employee and keep its corporate culture of innovation alit all the time. This paper illustrates how Google has motivated its employees to keep the innovation engine on the move. The paper will analyze these policies in the light of three motivation theories: Intrinsic motivation theory and Need Hierarchy theory (Maslow).
This paper aims to understand how Google has helped to attain employee satisfaction and translate it to continuous innovation. Has Google’s culture has helped in attaining innovative culture? Which motivational needs are satisfied with the incentive policy Google follows: intrinsic or need hierarchy? Which needs in Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid are satisfied which makes employees innovate more? These are the questions which this paper will try to answer.
In order to understand how Google has helped its teams and employees to become more innovative, this paper will employ a qualitative research and compare and contrast the theory and practice i.e. the theory of Maslow’s need hierarchy theory and the practices of Google. The research is conducted with the aid of secondary research gathering information regarding Google and its employee motivation policies through secondary research.
Google Inc. is an organization which motivates its employees through its employee centric work culture. Google’s mission is to accumulate all of the world’s information and present it to the user anytime on request. Founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google revolutionized online search (Google). It invented a unique revenue generation model through the internet which was based on search services and advertisements (Google). So far, Google has continues with its innovative stretch through a unique culture which facilitates easy mingling between departments, continuous sharing of ideas and knowledge and time to do research. Innovation is the key to Google and this is what is vital to its employees. And in this innovative culture, all employees are hands-on contributors. The organizational structure is flat with everybody doing everything (Google).
Being in a sector that values innovation from its employees, Google requires a corporate culture that is employee-centric. Employees come first. Google employees are pampered with generous and unexpected perks increases employee satisfaction which helps Google maintain its innovative culture intact.
How is this culture of innovation maintained? The culture is ensured through an employee motivation program which ensures that employees’ needs are completely satiated. In this respect, one must understand what a motivation theory states. a traditional motivation theory based on the incentive motivation assumes that employees are motivated with rewards, both tangible and intangible, and positive behavior is the outcome of such incentive. Studies have shown that if a person receives the reward at the instant when he does the ‘good job’ satisfaction and the level of motivation is higher:
“…for money to motivate, an employee must: understand what performance is being measured and rewarded; have substantial impact on the performance measure chosen, and be given the reward quickly after his performance has been assessed” (Crystal).
Google Inc. is a company which overlooks the conventional corporate practices of rewarding employees once a year when the incentives are doled out, gives its employees perks whenever it deems that it is required. This increases the level of motivation among employees.
The company by policy sets aside a day in the week for research purposes for all employees. This helps in knowledge creation. Google’s employees use this one day break to indulge in personal research to develop innovative ideas. But are all innovations feasible or are all employees successfully innovating. No. but failures are not considered by the organization as a setback:
“While Google places a premium on success, it appears to shrug off failure. The resulting culture of fearlessness permeates the 24-hour Googleplex” (Goo D01)
The above mentioned fearless culture provides confidence to the employees to innovate without the fear of retribution. On the contrary, Google leadership encourages the employees to “propose wild, ambitious ideas” and a supervisor puts together small team to study the feasibility of the idea. As hierarchy is almost non-existent, most of the people have generic designations “product manager”. So everyone is entrusted with the same function, to innovate. This is the reason why Google comes up with an array of products, like Orkut and Google News, which are exclusive innovations of employees in their 20 percent free time to work on their ideas (Goo). Given this background of Google it is necessary to understand how employees are getting motivated and what needs are satisfied.
Abraham Maslow provided a theory of psychology which has been adopted in employee motivation. His concept was of a “need hierarchy” where the basic needs of an individual could be placed in hierarchal order of prepotency. These needs are physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization needs. According to Maslow “when a need is fairly well satisfied, the next proponent (higher) need emerges, in turn to dominate the conscious life and to serve as the center of organization of behavior, since gratified needs are not active motivators” (Maslow 40-41).
In Maslow’s theory, the hierarchy begins with physiological needs which is considered to be basic in all living organism and moves up with various psychological needs which initially is less prepotent, but later assumes greater importance once the physiological need is satisfied. As for job motivation, the hierarchy is more relevant when it passes the basic biological requirements.
Given this theory, it is relevant to assume that employees will never be satisfied with his/her job. Then the potent question arises is that how do employers motivate workers to work? This was explained by Fredrick Herzberg in his two-factor Theory. He presented two factors, hygiene and motivating factors, influenced employees to be satisfied with their job and do their work better. According to this theory, hygiene factors when gratified imply that the employee is not dissatisfied with his/her job. But it is the motivators, which actually leads to positive job attitude, as they “satisfy the individual’s need for self-actualization in his work” (Herzberg and Snyderman 114). The hygiene factors are salary, incentive, supervision, environment, job security, company policy, relationship with co-workers, etc. while the motivators are growth, promotion, responsibility, work itself, recognition, and achievement.
In the light of the above theories of motivation, we will not analyze the case of Google employee motivation. Google ensures that all employees are getting a salary which is according to the market standard apart from additional perks. The physical environment of the office is such that it ensures that all employees gain access to each other and there can be open discussion on innovation. A few employee centric physical environments that Google has developed which helps in removing the dissatisfaction among employees are quoted below:
“Googleplex…look more like some new-age college campus than a corporate office complex … free meals three times a day; free use of an outdoor wave pool, indoor gym and large child care facility; private shuttle bus service …envy of workers all over Silicon Valley.” (Goo D01)
The above mentioned facilities satisfy the hygiene factors as in Herzberg’s theory and the physiological, safety, and esteem need in case of Maslow’s theory. But how does Google make its employees give their best performance? They satisfy their motivators. The rule is simple which eludes many organizations like Microsoft who feel providing a high salary and well secured future will induce employees to improve their performance. But Google provides them with an opportunity to work in a way that no other corporate allow. Google employees are provided free time every day to indulge in research of their own. Here all employees are researchers, and they are encouraged to come up with new ideas. This encouragement by the company which allows employees to work independently as well as help them nurture their innovative mind infuses the motivation. These are the motivating factors Google uses. Recognition is at the precise point. If an employee comes up with an idea which has potential, he is immediately assigned a team by the supervisor to work on it and see its feasibility. if the idea hits, it is launched immediately:
“Many of the personal projects yield public offerings, such as the social networking Web site Orkut and Google News, a collection of headlines and news links.” (Goo D01)
The fear of growth being curbed if one fails or the fear of not being recognized or promotion being hampered is not something the Google employees know. They undergo continuous innovation phase and they are encouraged to innovate even if they fail. According to Google’s product manager for AdWords service Richard Holden, “The stigma [for failure] is less because we staff projects leanly and encourage them to just move, move, and move. If it doesn’t work, move on.” (Goo D01).
Thus the employees of Google are not only satisfied but they are motivated through a series of management induced policies wherein the employees are gratified freedom and recognition for the work they do. This helps the employees to perform better and helps Google maintain the innovative culture.
As the founders of the company, they are young; they have tried to inculcate a culture of youthfulness and a structure that is almost flat. The companies follow an open door policy, which is accentuated in its architecture: “interiors through glass-walled workrooms shared by three or four employees” (Goo D01). It intends to make the workplace a fun place to be in. that is the reason Google provides 20 percent of the work hours to employees for self-directed projects.
The Google culture is characterized by a flat organization, minimum hierarchy, and a collaborative environment (Weber). This message is brought out through not only management policies but also through the architecture of the Google complexes. Team orientation and knowledge sharing is the key to the success of Google in its continuous innovativeness. Through its physical structure and policies, Google ensures that all employees, from different departments, meet and communicate extensively within the organization. That is why they have facilities of gym, or café, or video games, etc. the main essence of maintaining such facilities are not only to meet the hygiene needs o f an individual but also to motivate. The team structure in Google is essential as all works within Google are organized as projects. Due to its policy of flat structure, the leader of the project switches from time to time so that everyone has a chance to become the leader. These teams are intended so that each team ember brings his or her strength in the team as well as it is the team which has absolute freedom to organize the work flow of the project with complete independence. These teams are separately responsible for the work they do, the goals and the organization of these goals. So if something goes wrong with a product which has gone public, the team is responsible to emend it without anybody’s consent. This level of freedom is something that induces a sense of belonging and responsibility towards the work they do which leads to self-actualization as has been shown by Herzberg.
The culture is the essence even with the hiring process of Google. For recruitment purposes, all candidates have to go through the 100 question personality test made by Myers and Brigs. Extrovert candidates have a greater chance of entry into the organization. Google is an extrovert organization. Its basic goal is to share. This extrovert signal is found even in the organization’s corporate culture through its open door policy, common cafeteria for all; indoor sports within the office complex, etc. are all features that bring forth the extroverts in the organizational culture. The personality of Google is more intuitive as there are no big hierarchies. Employees are encouraged to be intuitive to do their own research. Google has a thinking structure. This is evident from their recruitment policy wherein in they want intelligent people on board, as they believe that more intelligence leads to better performance. As the corporate culture of Google is extrovert, thinking, and intuitive, it helps Google to maintain it flexibility and adaptive capability to an ever changing technological market.
Google is an organization that believes in its vision and that is providing information to the world. This is a mammoth task, as it requires immensely complex behind a very simple interface. This requires immense human skill which can design these. So employees are vital to the success of Google. But it is also important that the employees believe in the vision that the organization has and help in being equally innovative in perusing its vision. So employees must be motivated enough to perform well as well as be a part of the culture or the organization. Google has done this not only by means of monetary gratifications. Google has ensured that money is not the key to retaining and maintaining performance. So it has used non-pecuniary means of gratification of the motivating factors which leads to self-actualization of employees rather than pecuniary perks which removes dissatisfaction. Another impetus for the innovativeness of the organization is its culture which helps the organization to become a place for knowledge sharing and creation maintaining its innovative edge.
Crystal, Graef. “Creative motivation at Google Inc.” 2005. The Financial Express. Web.
Goo, Sara Kehaulani. “Building a ‘Googley’ Workforce: Corporate Culture Breeds Innovation.” Washington Post 2006: D01.
Google. Corporate Information. 2009 Google Group. Web.
Herzberg, Frederick and Barbara Bloch Snyderman. The Motivation to Work. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1959.
Maslow, A.H. “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Harriman, Philip Lawrence and Philip Harriman. Twentieth Century Psychology. USA: Ayer Publishing, 1946. 22-48.
Weber, Stephan. Organizational Behaviour – Google Corporate Culture in Perspective. GRIN Verlag, 2008.