OWL Magazine Korea

Laszlo Bock: ‘Google’s Morning Marks the Beginning of Freedom’

Google is widely recognized as one of the top IT companies leading innovation alongside Apple, Microsoft, and Meta (Facebook). Especially for those majoring in Computer Science (CS), Google is perceived as one of the dream companies to work for. Known for offering high salaries and various welfare benefits, it is known to provide satisfaction to its employees.

As Google has grown to become one of the world’s leading companies, receiving countless job applications from around the globe has become common. With only about 0.25% of applicants being accepted, getting a job at Google is significantly more competitive than getting into prestigious universities like Harvard or Stanford.

“The book ‘Google’s Morning Marks the Beginning of Freedom’ is written from the perspective and experience of an HR manager who has been hiring talents for the globally growing Google for a long time. Laszlo Bock joined the ‘People Operations’ department, responsible for Google’s HR, and compiled all his experiences at Google into one book. From the early days of Google’s recruitment to how employees are managed and motivated afterward, the book provides insights and reflections on all aspects of talent management in a company.

Being a book that includes the author’s experiences and reflections on conducting HR operations at a giant company like Google, it could be considered essential reading for HR professionals at any company. Even for job seekers, reading the book would be helpful. Understanding what large companies like “Google” look for when hiring, and what processes they go through, can make the challenging recruitment process much smoother.

“Selecting and Managing the Best Talents”

The book is divided into chapters, each addressing different aspects such as the recruitment process, trial and error, and post-hiring management. Before delving into the main content of the book, it would be helpful to take a look at the table of contents to understand what topics are covered.

  • Becoming a Founder
  • Strategy Means Nothing in Front of Organizational Culture
    • Assign Meaning to Work
    • Embrace Information Sharing
    • Everyone Wants to Determine Their Own Destiny
    • Culture Matters Most When It’s Tested
    • The Freedom Given to Employees Brings Results
  • All New Hires are Above Average
    • Invest in Hiring Rather Than Education and Training
    • Spend a Long Time on Recruitment
    • Hire People Better Than Yourself
    • Complement Human Instincts with Science
  • Searching for the Best Results
    • Starting a Company with Two Founders
    • Slow and Steady Wins the Race
    • Finding the Best Candidate Out of 7 Billion People
    • Google Employees Don’t Know Everyone in the World
  • Don’t Trust Your Instincts
    • 100 Years of Science Knows the Answer
    • Selecting Interview Questions
    • Regularly Review the Recruitment Process
    • Don’t Compromise on the Quality of RecruitmentHow to Recruit the Best Talent?
  • Empower Employees to Run the Company
    • Eliminate Symbols of Status
    • Use Data Instead of Politics
    • Let Employees Make Their Own Decisions
    • Great Expectations Yield Great Results
  • Why Do People Hate Performance Management?
    • Admitting Mistakes
    • Setting Goals
    • Measuring Performance
    • Ensuring Fairness
    • Learn and Utilize Simple Tricks
    • The Wisdom of the Crowd Is Not About Selecting People
    • Utilize Everything for Promotion Materials
    • New Hope
  • Two Tails
    • Find Those in Need of Help
    • Carefully Observe the Best Employees
    • Managing Two Tails
  • Creating Educational and Training Programs
    • Learn the Best When Learning the Least
    • Recruit the Best Employees in Each Field as Instructors
    • Invest in Programs that Change Behavior
    • Combine Learning and Teaching
  • Rewarding Differently
    • The Best Employees Have More Value Than Salaries
    • Celebrate Achievements, Not Rewards
    • Praise and Love Spread Easily
    • Reward Even for Failure
    • Blind Belief
  • Give the Best Things for Free
    • Encourage Efficiency in Work and Personal Life
    • Broaden the Horizon of the Community
    • Fuel for Innovation
    • Find Ways to Respond with “Okay”
    • Be There When Employees Need It Most
  • Poke the Side Gently
    • Ways to Make Employees Wise
    • Ways to Make Employees Wealthy
    • Ways to Make Employees Healthy
    • Design with Intent
  • Rainbows Don’t Appear Every Day
    • Cost of Information Disclosure
    • Rejecting Favors
    • Finding Consistency Is Narrow-Minded Thinking
    • Value Eccentric People
    • Focus on What’s Important
    • You Can’t Please Everyone
    • Trust in Humanity and Employees
  • Things You Can Do Starting Tomorrow

“The Reason for Giving Employees Freedom”

The book can be broadly divided into two parts. One is about the process of selecting talents, and the other is about how to manage the recruited talents. The beginning of the book emphasizes the importance of giving employees “freedom,” which is based on various research results and cases. It argues that when employees are given “freedom,” they achieve higher performance. Especially, on page 32, there’s a case study of a clothing factory where giving freedom to employees led to higher performance.

Moreover, it contradicts the importance of sufficient rewards. Henry Ford once said, “A man who is satisfied with his pay for a day’s work is not a man who gets paid enough.” This perfectly aligns with Google’s perspective.

When given enough freedom and rewards, employees naturally act as if they were founders or owners of the company, bringing greater benefits to the company. Ultimately, what is important for growing a company is to make every employee think of themselves as “founders.”

“How to Make Every Employee Think of Themselves as Founders: Corporate Culture”

Making all employees think of themselves as founders is based on “corporate culture.” Corporate culture is based on “mission, transparency, voice,” and it is considered the most important thing in front of organizational culture. Especially, by using a mission that stimulates ambition, and maintaining transparency through open operation, it is essential to build a culture where every individual in the organization can think of themselves as “founders.” Google maintains transparency by opening all information to all employees, which is possible based on the trust built within Google.

“Why Does Google Spend So Much Time on Recruitment?”

Google’s recruitment process is known to be long and unique. The reason Google puts so much effort into recruitment is simple: to hire the best talents. Unlike sports like baseball, where there are plenty of objective records, the general job market doesn’t have such records. Google invests more than twice as much as other companies in recruitment costs. This effort in recruitment is to focus on the entire recruitment process, ultimately reducing costs for employee education and training after recruitment.

“Why Google Conducts 4 Rounds of Interviews”

Google is also famous for conducting its hiring process slowly. In the past, there were cases where more than 25 interviews were conducted to hire one person. However, it has been changed to four interviews based on data. Conducting four interviews showed an accuracy of 86%, and it was found that adding one more interview only increased the accuracy by about 1%. Thus, the rule of conducting “four” interviews was born.

This originated from an employee named Tott Colail, who raised doubts about whether conducting 25 interviews was appropriate while working in the personnel management team. Research began on this, and it was discovered based on data that four interviews were adequate with 86% reliability. Furthermore, it was found that from the fifth interview onwards, the predictive accuracy improved by only one percent with each additional interview. As a result, the hiring process, which previously took 90 to 180 days, was shortened to an average of 47 days.

Although the author did not apply to Google, they once applied to Apple, a globally renowned company similar to Google. At Apple, similarly, after reviewing documents, there were a total of four interviews conducted. Perhaps this decision was not based solely on such data, but it’s likely influenced by it. (Of course, in some cases, Apple conducts more interviews, depending on the circumstances.)

Returning to the content of the book, the reason for slow and thorough verification in recruitment is precisely for hiring the “best talent.” In the field of technology, the value of top-level technicians is nearly 300 times that of average technicians. Moreover, Google always strives to hire people better than themselves. In some cases, it took four years of steady persuasion to convince someone to switch jobs.

“What Google Values Most in Talent Recruitment”

Google considers “skills” important, but it also values humility and diligence based on skills. Google particularly focuses on “Googliness,” which cannot be defined in a word, but it seems essential to have curiosity, humility, and diligence while possessing skills. Furthermore, it is speculated that Google seeks individuals who can collaborate with others harmoniously, not just those who excel individually.

Google used to prefer candidates from prestigious universities in the early days of hiring. However, over time, it realized that there are outstanding talents even among non-prestigious university graduates, and now it evaluates candidates from various aspects. Google sometimes hires based on recommendations from its own employees and conducts evaluations based on the resumes of applicants. If the timing coincides with a current employee’s experience, an email is automatically sent to the existing employee for reference checks.

“Innovative Hiring Methods at Google”

Google sometimes hires employees through referrals from existing staff, but it has also actively attempted recruitment. Page 130 depicts attempts to recruit talent using mystery billboards. However, although these attempts garnered media attention, ultimately, not a single talent was recruited.

Additionally, Google created a system called “Sourcing Jam” internally to collect talent pools and select employees, but despite needing 300,000 hires annually, only 100,000 were made. However, through this process, it was realized that the best talents already have good jobs and are not looking for new opportunities.

Internal recruiters at Google also used “gHire” to find and filter talents over long periods. Through this method, they found more than half of all hires each year and spent less than external agencies.

Various methods of securing talent pools at Google are detailed, and it is said that they can be verified for their performance. Some of these methods include:

  • Using LinkedIn to. secure talent pools.
  • Wayback Machine: A site that regularly backs up and stores over 240 billion web pages created by the Internet Archive, allowing users to search records dating back to 1996 to review websites applicants have created in the past.
  • Google Careers: Google’s own recruiting site created in 2012.
  • Recruiting companies: In Korea, where Google’s market share is lower than that of Naver, this method is also used. Especially for finding senior managers, recruiting agencies are utilized.
  • Job search sites: Such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder, Dice, Indeed, etc. However, few cases lead to actual hiring (Those who genuinely want to work at Google usually apply through the Google Careers site).

Google not only hires individuals but also sometimes hires entire teams at once. As an example mentioned on page 147, an entire team from Aarhus, Denmark, was hired by Google, and this team created the JavaScript engine that goes into Chrome.

“Hiring the Best Talent”

It’s said that Google has upheld the principle of hiring the best talent since its founding. This aligns with Steve Jobs’ past interviews about “talent,” and Google’s founders even sought advice on hiring the best talent from Steve Jobs himself. Therefore, like Apple, Google is also committed to hiring the “best talent.”

To find such talent, Google has established and shared the following principles:

  • Describe the person you are looking for in great detail to receive recommendations for the best candidates.
  • Make talent recruitment part of every employee’s daily work.
  • To attract the best talent, be willing to go to extreme lengths, so do not fear going the extra mile.

“The Truth Behind Strange Questions Asked in Google Interviews”

Searching online about Google interviews reveals easily that “strange questions” are asked. While these questions have been asked in actual Google interviews and may continue to be used, efforts are made to gradually reduce the frequency of asking such questions because they can be a waste of time for both parties. Examples of such strange questions include, “How many gas stations are there in Manhattan?”

The most important data for predicting a candidate’s future job performance is considered to be the “Work Sample Test,” explaining 29% of future job performance. This involves having applicants perform tasks similar to those they would do if hired, followed by measuring their performance.

The second-best predictor of performance is considered to be “General Cognitive Ability,” explaining 26% of performance predictions. This involves administering tests similar to intelligence quotient (IQ) tests, with questions that have right and wrong answers.

Connected to general cognitive ability is the “Structured Interview,” explaining 26% of future performance predictions. This includes asking applicants a series of questions with clearly defined criteria for evaluating the quality of their responses. It encompasses two types of interviews:

  • Behavioral Interview: Asking applicants to describe achievements they’ve made in the past and how those achievements are related to future tasks.
  • Situational Interview: Setting up hypothetical scenarios related to the job and asking applicants how they would handle various situations.

While these methods are effective, it’s acknowledged that creating question items can be challenging, and it’s a drawback that new questions need to be created for each interview. To address this, Google has developed an internal tool called “qDroid” to support interviewers in creating and conducting interviews.

Below are examples of interview questions that can be seen in qDroid:

  • Describe a time when your actions had a positive impact on the team. (Follow-up questions: What were your original goals, and why? How did your teammates react? What were your plans?)
  • Describe a time when you effectively managed a team to achieve a goal. (Follow-up questions: What were your goals, both as an individual and as part of the team? How did you achieve each of those goals as an individual and as a team member? How did you apply your leadership to each team member? What did you learn or realize from this specific situation?)
  • Describe a time when you faced difficulties while working with someone. (Follow-up questions: How did you resolve the issue? What were the results? Were there any other approaches you could have taken?)

“Interviews Should Make Interviewers Love Candidates, Not Just Evaluate Them.”

Moreover, it’s emphasized that interviews should not solely aim to evaluate candidates but to make interviewers love them. Candidates should remember the interview process as a great experience, with their interests being fully addressed during the process, and they should leave feeling that the day of the interview was the best day of their lives. Because candidates will share their interview experiences with others from the moment they leave the interview room, and above all, this is the right way to treat people.

After the interview, Google uses a tool called “VoxPop” to conduct surveys among all candidates, aiming to improve the interview process in the future.

“Four Qualities Predicting High Performance After Joining Google”

Google considers the following four elements as indicators of potential high performance after joining the company:

  • General Cognitive Ability: Related to how individuals have solved various challenging problems in real-life situations (not a process of checking GPA or SAT scores).
  • Leadership: Emergent leadership.
  • Googleyness: Enjoying fun, possessing a degree of intellectual humility, feeling comfortable with ambiguity, choosing a courageous or interesting path in life, etc.
  • Role-related Knowledge: Individuals with a curious mindset who willingly learn anything tend to find the most accurate answers and discover genuinely innovative solutions. Google strives to maintain a balanced mix of well-rounded individuals and domain experts.

“Google’s Revisit Program”

Google has a system in place to reconsider whether any rejected applicants may have been misjudged during the hiring process. This is done through the Revisit Program, where Google operates a review of 300,000 resumes of applicants who were rejected in 2010, resulting in the reconsideration of 10,000 resumes and the hiring of 150 candidates.

“Hiring at Google Considering Cultural Differences”

While hiring is conducted by dedicated personnel, Google also checks for cultural differences on a country-by-country basis and takes into account other considerations. Particularly in Japan, grades are not considered when evaluating university students, similar to South Korea, as they tend to focus on college entrance exams during high school.

“The Google Hiring Process”

  • Applicants submit their applications.
  • Someone knowledgeable about all roles, not just the one applied for, screens the resumes.
  • Phone interviews or Google Hangout video chats are conducted, evaluating general cognitive ability.
  • Face-to-face interviews are conducted by hiring managers, potential colleagues, subordinates, and multifunctional interviewers.
  • Formal and structured evaluation materials are accumulated, incorporating the “wisdom of crowds” and including “background checks.”
  • A hiring committee reviews the process, and the final decision is made by senior executives, including the CEO.
  • Successful candidates are notified, and contracts are offered.

An impressive aspect is the inclusion of “multifunctional interviewers,” where candidates may be interviewed by individuals unrelated to the group they may join and may include both potential supervisors and subordinates.

Additionally, even people without direct vested interests are consulted during the hiring committee. Decisions are made based on “culture,” with examples presented of employees who were rejected due to past competence but received a rejection due to arrogance.

Ultimately, hiring decisions are made by Larry Page, and opinions frequently suggest that candidates fall short of the hiring criteria or fail to demonstrate satisfactory creativity in their portfolios.

“How to Hire the Best”

Most Google employees spend 4-10 hours a week on the hiring process. In 2013, this was 1.5 hours per week, gradually decreasing over time. Google’s hiring standards are as follows:

  • Set high standards.
  • Look for your own candidates.
  • Approach candidates objectively.
  • Provide reasons why candidates should join your company.

Google encourages employees to have a sense of ownership and emphasizes a horizontal relationship, distinguishing only the necessary ranks for practical purposes:

  • Individual Contributor
  • Manager
  • Director
  • Executive

Even executives do not receive special benefits, ensuring that all employees receive equal welfare and benefits. This is done to minimize the pitfalls of power and showiness, and to strive for decision-making based on data.

Moreover, Google is famous for sharing all information openly, allowing all employees to access information related to promotions. This is seen as a more effective and long-term approach.

“The Power of 20% Free Time”

At 3M, all employees are given 15% of their working hours as free time. This is done to foster creative ideas. Google adds 5% to this, allocating 20% of employees’ time for personal interests, provided it is related to Google’s work.

“Regarding Performance Bonus Distribution…”

In typical companies, performance bonuses are based on individual salaries. However, this can lead to discrepancies where those with lower base salaries receive fewer bonuses while those with higher salaries receive more. To address this, Google calculates bonuses based on the median salary of everyone performing the same role rather than an individual’s salary.

“Google’s Spirit, Googlegeist”

Initially, the HR department conducted happiness surveys targeting employees. Later, this evolved into what is known as the “Ecstasy Survey,” which ultimately gave birth to Googlegeist.

Googlegeist, meaning the spirit of Google, is an annual survey tool conducted among over 40,000 Google employees. It presents 100 questions each year to gather employee opinions. After the survey, changes within the company are tracked, and it’s reported that about 90% of employees participate each year.

The approach combines covert and anonymous methods. Covert means respondents do not provide their names but may provide information helpful for analyzing the company, such as location, position, and product affiliation.

Furthermore, what sets Googlegeist apart is that Google employees themselves write survey questions. Whether positive or negative, all survey results are shared with the entire company within a month, demonstrating a Google-style approach. It’s done with the hope that employees will express their true feelings and that managers will address issues with honesty rather than concealing or defending them.

Through this process, teams or departments where internal conflicts were anticipated could be identified almost accurately. With the ability to predict and take action, employee turnover rates could be managed low, contributing to increased employee satisfaction.

“The Importance of Code Health”

There were issues where rewards were given simply to those who produced a lot of code. To address this, emphasis was placed on the “importance of code health.” Technical employees created an organization themselves to ensure that rewards were also given to those who produced the highest quality code, and the following steps were taken:

  • Conduct education and promotion to raise awareness of the importance of code health.
  • Establish cooperation with the People Operations department and strive to make code health an important factor in performance correction processes and promotion committee assessments.
  • Develop some tools to automatically review code health.
  • Institute the Citizenship Award to recognize contributions to code health, ensuring that anyone recognized by colleagues and supervisors has the opportunity to receive the award.

“Collecting Ideas from Google Employees”

Google has a system where former and current employees can directly submit ideas and vote on them. The top 20 ideas with the most support are then realized and implemented.

“People Live Up to Others’ Expectations”

It’s generally believed that people tend to live up to the expectations others have of them. In addition to this claim, psychologists Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, in their co-authored book “A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance,” add that specific goals, as opposed to ambiguous and low-expectation goals, not only provide more motivation but also lead to higher performance.

To foster this intrinsic motivation, Google operates by setting specific goals. In addition, by openly discussing the situation of the organization or department and giving employees the authority to shape teams, departments, or even the company, Google encourages employees to take ownership.

“Managerial Delegation of Authority”

Google introduces ways for managers to delegate authority, including:

  • Eliminate symbols representing rank or position.
  • Base decisions on data and verified facts rather than the manager’s opinion.
  • Find ways for employees to make decisions about their own work and company matters.
  • Expect a lot from employees.

“Eliminating Rules for Performance Management”

Google, along with companies like Adobe, Expedia, and Microsoft, eliminated performance evaluation systems due to their negative aspects. Over time, performance management had become bureaucratic and based on predetermined rules rather than being a process for accumulating achievements. Google also faced internal dissatisfaction with performance management, with complaints about it being too time-consuming and lacking transparency. Consequently, changes were made. Starting from 2013, performance evaluations were conducted every six months instead of annually, and the evaluation scale was compressed from the previous “1.0 – 5.0” to five grades:

  • Needs Improvement
  • Consistently Meets Expectations
  • Exceeds Expectations
  • Strongly Exceeds Expectations
  • Superb

“Reasons not to Have Two Different Conversations at Once Due to Different Personalities”

The book also advises against having two entirely different conversations due to different personalities. For example, it’s mentioned that at Google, the annual performance evaluations are conducted in November, while discussions about salary and bonuses are held a month later. Having two entirely different conversations simultaneously can lead to errors in distributing bonuses.

“A Concept of Evaluation Applicable to Any Company”

Regarding performance and employee evaluations, the book provides core concepts applicable to any company. Google implements a peer review system where employees are asked to fill in all their achievements over the year. These data are then aggregated and used as promotion material.

Below are summarized core concepts applicable to any company:

  • Set precise goals.
  • Collect peer reviews.
  • Adopt a correction process for evaluations.
  • Separate conversations about rewards and growth development.
  • Focus on what matters – fair grading and correction processes based on performance relative to goals, and sincere guidance for improvement.

“Two-Tail Management: Helping Those in Need”

In a typical normal distribution curve, most people cluster around the mean. However, there are individuals at both ends of this curve. Managing those at both extremes is crucial for a company.

Herman Aguinis and Ernest O’Boyle Jr. state, “It’s not the average performers who dominate the company through giant accomplishments but the elite few who achieve tremendous results.” Thus, it’s essential to manage those at both extremes effectively.

Firstly, those in the bottom 5% are not necessarily candidates for termination; instead, efforts should be made to help them. This may result in improvement, termination, or even success elsewhere after leaving the company.

Of course, it’s equally important to manage the top performers. Managing both extremes involves:

“Managing Two Tails”

  • Focus on upgrading your organization.
  • Gather data. Classify managers into different groups based on performance and employee survey results, examine differences between each group, and find reasons.
  • Conduct company-wide surveys twice a year to assess how managers are performing.
  • Have those with the highest scores in each competency teach others.

“Great Managers Lead Great Teams”

Research has shown the importance of managers. Eight common characteristics of great managers are summarized:

“8 Characteristics of Great Managers”

  • They become great coaches.
  • They delegate authority and avoid micromanaging.
  • They care about employee success and personal well-being.
  • They are highly productive and results-oriented.
  • They communicate effectively, listening and sharing information.
  • They help employees with career development.
  • They have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  • They possess technical skills to offer helpful advice to the team and employees.

“Creating Helpful Training Programs”

Effective training programs focus on deliberate practice, where one learns best when aiming to perfect specific skills through countless repetitions of the same action. For example, the “Angry Customer Response Method” proved helpful by concentrating on handling specific situations.

“Utilizing Top Employees in Each Field as Instructors”

Using the best employees in each field within the company as instructors is another management strategy. Encouraging mutual growth through volunteerism among employees is highlighted. At Google, individuals knowledgeable in technical areas serve as “Tech Gurus” or “Gurus” through volunteerism, fostering mutual growth.

“Evaluating Learning Programs”

Evaluation methods for education and training programs vary. Kurt Patrick suggests a “4-level evaluation model” where programs are assessed on four levels:

  • Reaction Evaluation: Asking learners about their reaction to the training.
  • Learning Evaluation: Assessing changes in learners’ knowledge or attitudes.
  • Behavior Evaluation: Determining how learners’ attitudes have changed as a result of training.
  • Results Evaluation: Examining the actual results of the training program.

“How Google Rewards Its Employees”

Google has gradually established principles for rewards. Basic stock options are provided to all employees, following these four principles:

  • Reward differentially.
  • Celebrate achievement, not compensation.
  • Make it easy to spread love.
  • Reward thoughtful failure.

Moreover, Google operates a system called “gThanks” to facilitate peer-to-peer recognition, allowing employees to reward each other with $175 bonuses.

Furthermore, Google provides various welfare benefits, with free meals being one of the most famous. Anyone working at Google can enjoy free meals, and various other free services are offered, fostering employee satisfaction and retention.

In conclusion, the book summarizes “Work Rules” that can be applied in other companies as well. By adhering to these principles and methods, one can recruit and retain the best employees, fostering continued innovation.

“Work Rules for Employees”

  • Give meaning to work: Google’s mission is to organize all the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • Trust people.
  • Hire people better than you.
  • Don’t confuse capability development with performance management.
  • Focus on both the best and worst employees.
  • Be frugal yet generous.
  • Reward differentially.
  • Nudge, don’t nag.
  • Manage rising expectations.
  • Have fun! Then go back to 1 and start again: Make it a great place to work.

This book provides insights into Google’s systems and spirit, from recruitment to management, making it a valuable resource for both HR professionals and job seekers alike. As it captures Google’s HR history, the company continues to be recognized as one of the world’s leading companies, a place admired by job seekers globally.

Lastly, the author reminds us that Google’s mornings are when freedom begins.

  • Author: Laszlo Bock
  • Publication Date: August 16, 2021
  • ISBN13: 9788925579825
  • Yes24 Link: link