Google Organizational Culture

Google has an organizational culture built around the pillars of innovation and a superior employee experience.

Understanding Google’s organizational culture

Google’s superior organizational culture is well publicized, and for good reason.

The company won 9 separate awards from Comparably in 2022 alone, including Best Engineering Team, Best Marketing Team, Best Global Culture, and Best Company Outlook.

Google also occupied the number one position above 49 similar companies in the Forbes Best Company Culture list of 2020.

Google’s organizational culture is successful because it avoids the mundane aspects of a typical corporation. Instead, the company focuses on creating a workplace environment conducive to the generation of innovative ideas.

Happy employees are creative employees, at the end of the day.

To promote this culture, Google offers many perks. Employees can bring their pets to work, catch up on sleep in a nap pod, or receive a haircut from an on-site hairdresser.

More important, however, is the way Google has encouraged employees to learn and knowledge-share from the early days of the company.

Google takes this ethos very seriously. While learning is the right of every employee, teaching is the responsibility of the entire company.

This is exemplified by the Googler to Googler (G2G) network which handles around 80% of all employee training and is comprised of around 6,000 individuals.

Backed by a robust, collaborative environment, employees can learn various professional skills such as public speaking or negotiation and provide one-on-one mentorship.

Interesting aspects of Google’s organizational culture

How else is innovation and employee well-being furthered at Google? Let’s take a look a just a few of the measures in place.

Think 10x 

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

Google has a long and proven track record of successful innovations from Google Maps to Android, YouTube, and Gmail.

Within Google Search itself there are also countless features such as autocomplete, translations, and universal search.

The company follows the “Think 10x” rule which means it focuses on making a product ten times better than anything else on the market.

According to former CEO Larry Page, this enables employees to pursue big ideas and helps them avoid the mindset of doing just enough to beat the competition.

Exhaustive recruitment process

According to CNBC, Google receives around 3 million applications each year with an acceptance rate of just 0.2%.

The company could be forgiven for rushing its recruitment strategy to process the large volume of applications, but instead, it is incredibly meticulous.

In addition to a candidate’s intellect and technical qualifications, Google evaluates their creative thought process and whether they can think on their feet with obscure questions like “How many golf balls could a school bus hold?” 

Employees are also required to attend numerous phone and on-site interviews and their credentials are evaluated by a job-specific hiring committee made up of directors and senior managers.

Ultimately, Google’s exhaustive hiring process enables it to secure the most articulate and creative talent who represent the best cultural fit.

Data-based HR

Google’s People Operations department uses data analytics to create a positive culture for employees and solve problems.

Specific algorithms are used to identify those employees most at risk of leaving the company and Google has even performed studies on the optimal shape of tables in its cafeteria.

In one instance, Google observed that it had a retention problem with female staff who were leaving at twice the rate of their male counterparts.

HR then identified that the cause of the problem was a lack of maternity leave, so the company increased it from 12 weeks to 5 months.

The company’s scientific, data-based approach to HR may seem cold and calculated when dealing with people. But in reality, Google is committed to rectifying nuanced problems and creating an ideal corporate culture.

Key takeaways:

  • Google has an organizational culture built around the pillars of innovation and a superior employee experience.
  • Google’s organizational culture is successful because it avoids the mundane aspects of a typical corporation. The company instead focuses on creating a workplace environment conducive to the generation of innovative ideas.
  • Google’s organizational culture is also supported by an exhaustive recruitment process, a data-based approach to human resources, and the Think 10x rule for innovative ideas.

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Organizational Structure Case Studies

Airbnb Organizational Structure

Airbnb follows a holacracy model, or a sort of flat organizational structure, where teams are organized for projects, to move quickly and iterate fast, thus keeping a lean and flexible approach. Airbnb also moved to a hybrid model where employees can work from anywhere and meet on a quarterly basis to plan ahead, and connect to each other.

eBay Organizational Structure

eBay was until recently a multi-divisional (M-form) organization with semi-autonomous units grouped according to the services they provided. Today, eBay has a single division called Marketplace, which includes eBay and its international iterations.

IBM Organizational Structure

IBM has an organizational structure characterized by product-based divisions, enabling its strategy to develop innovative and competitive products in multiple markets. IBM is also characterized by function-based segments that support product development and innovation for each product-based division, which include Global Markets, Integrated Supply Chain, Research, Development, and Intellectual Property.

Sony Organizational Structure

Sony has a matrix organizational structure primarily based on function-based groups and product/business divisions. The structure also incorporates geographical divisions. In 2021, Sony announced the overhauling of its organizational structure, changing its name from Sony Corporation to Sony Group Corporation to better identify itself as the headquarters of the Sony group of companies skewing the company toward product divisions.

Facebook Organizational Structure

Facebook is characterized by a multi-faceted matrix organizational structure. The company utilizes a flat organizational structure in combination with corporate function-based teams and product-based or geographic divisions. The flat organization structure is organized around the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, and the key executives around him. On the other hand, the function-based teams based on the main corporate functions (like HR, product management, investor relations, and so on).

Google Organizational Structure

Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.

Tesla Organizational Structure

Tesla is characterized by a functional organizational structure with aspects of a hierarchical structure. Tesla does employ functional centers that cover all business activities, including finance, sales, marketing, technology, engineering, design, and the offices of the CEO and chairperson. Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, decide the strategic direction of the company, with international operations given little autonomy.

McDonald’s Organizational Structure

McDonald’s has a divisional organizational structure where each division – based on geographical location – is assigned operational responsibilities and strategic objectives. The main geographical divisions are the US, internationally operated markets, and international developmental licensed markets. And on the other hand, the hierarchical leadership structure is organized around regional and functional divisions.

Walmart Organizational Structure

Walmart has a hybrid hierarchical-functional organizational structure, otherwise referred to as a matrix structure that combines multiple approaches. On the one hand, Walmart follows a hierarchical structure, where the current CEO Doug McMillon is the only employee without a direct superior, and directives are sent from top-level management. On the other hand, the function-based structure of Walmart is used to categorize employees according to their particular skills and experience.

Microsoft Organizational Structure

Microsoft has a product-type divisional organizational structure based on functions and engineering groups. As the company scaled over time it also became more hierarchical, however still keeping its hybrid approach between functions, engineering groups, and management.

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