Picture in your mind the perfect company to work for. Would it have a fun office with cool decor, free food, and on-site laundry? Would you be able to commute to work in a shuttle with Wifi and get up to five months off for maternity leave? If so, your perfect company already exists. It is Google, and the story of how it got that way is one of the more interesting successes in the history of HR.
The saga of Google’s happiness machine is the subject of a recent article in Slate. Farhad Manjoo relates the story of how Google’s People Operations department (POPs to Google-ites, HR to you and me) solved its “woman problem” — specifically, how it managed to retain valued (female) employees after they started families.
The issue was crucial to the bottom line. As Manjoo points out, Google is competing with all the other top companies in the tech space for a limited supply of skilled workers. The loss of these new mothers represented a sizable financial hit for Google.
When POPS head Lazlo Bock started looking into the problem, Google offered a pretty typical maternity leave plan for a top U.S. company — 12 paid weeks for a woman who gave birth, and seven paid weeks to all other parents in their California offices.
Bock changed the plan to an unheard-of (for Americans) five months of paid leave for new moms, and extended those seven paid weeks for other parents to all its offices around the world. The change made workers happier, but it also boosted profits. Manjoo notes:
“…it would be a mistake to conclude that Google doles out such perks just to be nice. POPS rigorously monitors a slew of data about how employees respond to benefits, and it rarely throws money away. The five-month maternity leave plan, for instance, was a winner for the company. After it went into place, Google’s attrition rate for new mothers dropped down to the average rate for the rest of the firm.”
The end result? Happy employees who want to stay put — and a company that looks like the good guy while not spending any more than they would have to recruit replacements for workers who leave.
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