The session kicked off with a brief introduction from the very talented Wilson Wong (CIPD), introducing the speakers.

Aimee O’Malley (Google UK)

Aimee started with a few quotes from people at Google:

“Imagine a world where most organisations were the best place to work. Imagine what we could be getting done on the planet if it were true.”

“You have to have the culture and you have to get it right. The story of innovation has not changed. It has always been a small team of people who have a new idea, typically not understood by people around them and their executives.”

“If you give people freedom, they will amaze you”

Aimee recommended the recent book ‘How Google works’: http://www.howgoogleworks.net/uk

There are three components of their culture: Mission, Transparency, Voice. It is really clear that Google are experimental and data-driven in everything they do, and that they apply the same rigour to people as they do to engineering (and they have a group called ‘people analytics).

Google geist – their employee engagement survey, their annual pulse check on how things are doing. Aimee said that from her perspective (an L&D one) it is the single most important factor in determining their priorities for the year ahead. (This makes a refreshing change from the many places where it seems to be a waste of time). The (voluntary) completion rate is over 90% and there seem to be three reasons that make it so effective:

1 – Application of best practices – communicate the context for why it matters
2 – Transparency – all data is shared – even the ugly bits
3 – Take action – one of the questions is ‘I believe Google takes action based on Google geist’ and the answer is 84%. If you don’t respond to the feedback, people are reluctant to provide it.

Project Oxygen – Google is perceived as being anti-managers, and they have had times when they have tried doing without managers – an experiment that didn’t work. They turned to the people analytics team to prove that managers don’t matter but they were surprised by the result which was that managers matter a lot.
Using data from Google geist and other data (performance data, interviews etc.) they have worked to isolate what makes a great manager:
– a great coach
– empowers team and does not micromanage
– expresses interest/concern for team members’ success and personal well being
– is productive and results orientated
– is a good communicator
– helps with career development
– has a clear vision/strategy for the team
– has important technical skills that help him/her advise the team

A current project is gDNA – this is google’s first major long term study aimed at understanding work. digging into the way that each employee experiences work – both their innate characteristics (nature) and their surroundings (nurture) which are both incredibly important. This is a massive research project (I don’t think they were joking when they said 100 years). Some of the early work is looking into wellbeing where they have identified two different characteristics in people – those who are ‘segmenters; (and find it easy to switch off from work) and integrators (who find it really hard to switch off from work, even though they might want to). Google have been running an experiment – Dublin goes dark – where you drop off all your devices at reception on the way out and then collect them when you return in the morning. The data from this will inform their approach in the future.

Steph Fastre (Google UK)

“When considering candidates for a role, favour the ones with a track record of learning new things over the ones with a track record in that particular role.”

6 principles of individual learning

1 – Know the user (much like their approach to products, deep insight counts)
2 – Embrace freedom and flexibility
3 – Create personal accountability through relevancy (and the power of analytics).
4 – Foster the network, creating an ecosystem of peer learners. (G2G – Googler 2 Googler – forms 85% of Google internal courses).
5 – We are curators, not teachers (their leadership development programme is a great example of this, including TED talks, videos, and discussions across Google Hangouts)
6 – Learning agility, not ability. (Learning is a process, not an event. Learning happens in real life, Learning is personal. Learning is social.)

Google’s learning on this: Launch and iterate (technology enables this!) – be a catalyst for learning, not a roadblock. Get messy, test prototypes, get stuck in and learn from the data.

(This was a fabulous, insightful, honest, inspiring session. I absolutely loved it!)

(This was live-blogged during the session at CIPD14 – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of what was said, but my own views might occasionally creep in.)

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