Leadership and companies Essay

GOOGLE

What is the company’s vision?

            As one of the leading internet business in the world, Google has always taken pride in being simplistic yet innovative.  It has consistently introduced a number of new features and provided reliable service.  As such, it has lived up to its motto of never settling for the best.  It is this drive for perfection that sets the Google vision apart from all the other competitors in this field.

The pursuit for excellence is one of the trademarks that have catapulted Google into one of the top corporations in the world.  As co-founder Larry Page states, “The perfect search engine would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want.”  In this quest for excellence and perfection, the vision that Google has requires not only certain knowledge with regard to the direction (as supplied by the corporate vision) but also a high level of passion for development, innovation and research[1].

While Google is said to have entered the field of search engines during a time when there were few options and fewer competitors, it has nevertheless maintains its industry lead by continuously finding new ways to bring more effective service to its users.  As a company that is dedicated to blazing a trail in search engines, Google has been acknowledged as the leading internet search technology company in the world.  This accolade is not enough, however, since the goal of Google is give a much more improved level service to those who are seeking information online.  The level of service has improved so much that even if people are in coffee shops all over the world or in their homes, they are assured of consistent and effective service as well as access to information.

In pursuing this end, Google has steadfastly abided by its corporate vision.  It has been the driving force for innovation within the search engine industry and in doing so has challenged the limits that the current technology can provide accurate, easy-to-use, and fast search service that is accessible from any point in the world.  As such, it can be said that Google’s corporate vision is intrinsically connected to its mission to organize all of the world’s information into an easy to access package thus allowing virtually anyone to find information on anything from any place around the world.  It is also this goal that is continually challenging the other competitors in the industry and providing better service to all the end users.

Briefly, describe the main features of the ergonomics and physical working environment at Google

In becoming one of the industry leaders in search engines on the internet, Google has become the symbol of a living fossil; an industry leader from a previous age.  It has been characterized as such because of the way that it creates a very friendly and conducive working environment.  While the company does not really exist in a time capsule, the amount of cash inflow that it receives on a monthly basis allows it to expand and grow.  This is in turn also invested in making sure that the employees are well compensated in the form of financial and non-monetary considerations.

            The Google headquarters building has over two hundred and thirty (230) employees.  It is able to consistently supply all of these employees the perks and benefits that are needed in order to increase worker productivity.  The reason for this is that job satisfaction is one of the main factors for the productivity of employees.  As an indicator of the pleasure that an employee derives from his job, job satisfaction is very important to organization as it can help a company reduce costs from high employee turn-over rates and can also add a boost to productivity.  Job satisfaction also determines the level of contentment that an individual has with his company.  The more dissatisfied or discontented an employee is with his job the more likely the chance that he/she will leave the job.  Therefore, in order to be able to run an efficient company and get the most out of one’s employees, organization must be able to understand that job satisfaction, which is not only determined by pay but other factors as well, is a very important element to consider.

            Google has masterfully played to this principle by providing the employees with not only the compensation that is competitive on an industry level but also other benefits such as an on-site chef and masseuse to saunas, ice cream, and a weekly hockey game played in the car park.  By providing a fun and flexible working environment, work-life balance is maintained at comfortable levels.

            While there may be different locations for Google offices around the country, there is one thing that remains the same; the commitment to placing the welfare of employees first.  With perks such as office massages, gym facilities, and comprehensive health coverage, employees are well compensated and taken care of by the corporation.  This friendly environment fosters collaboration and interaction between members of the Google corporate family and as such, Google is able to reap the benefits of these incentives through the increased worker productivity.

            One other main factor of the Google working environment is the “20% project” which allows all technical engineers to devote 20% of their time to any project that they feel passionate about.  This flexibility in the working environment encourages innovation.  It has become so successful that the additional services that Google provides such as Gmail and Google news are actually results of such a work program.  This therefore goes to show that it really pays to invest in creating a good working environment for the employees.

How would you describe the working culture at Google?

Many studies have shown that in order to increase job satisfaction, organizations must implement practices that are designed to cater to the other needs of the employees.  These same studies have shown that job satisfaction is determined to a certain extent by factors such as the level of pay and benefits, the perceived fairness of the promotion system within a company, the quality of the working conditions, leadership and social relationships, and the job itself (the variety of tasks involved, the interest and challenge the job generates, and the clarity of the job description/requirements).  In order to increase job satisfaction, an organization needs to determine which of these factors influence the degree of job satisfaction their employees have and implement programs designed to address these issues.  This principle is what Google tries to embody in the working culture.

In carrying out this policy, Google tries to maintain the feel of a small company.  Despite the exponential growth that it is experiencing, Google has been successful in making sure that everyone at the Googleplex Headquarters feels like they are an important part of the team.  One way by which this is achieved is by making all the employees cultivate interpersonal relationships.  Google Café[2] is the venue for most of these interpersonal relationships because it allows the employees to sit at any table and enjoy conversations with employees from other departments within the Google Corporate Structure.

This working culture has becomes so successful that it allows a wide range of discussions ranging from the latest developments in computer games or even computer security encryption.  It has become so commonplace that employees are occasionally known to have given remarks to others that they have previously worked on the development of those products during their tenure at Google.  This is also one of the main strengths of the Google culture in that it promotes the culture that enables people to become hands-on contributors.

The lack of a strict corporate hierarchy makes the work culture at Google more relaxed but nevertheless still innovative and productive.  A good example of this would be during the time when the holiday logos of Google were created because it was during this time that the entire site was translated into Korean.  The most unusual team composed of a licensed neurosurgeon and other computer technicians were brought together during this task.    It was this comfortable working environment that enabled the team to complete this most daunting task.  Away from work, it was still play as usual at the office hockey rink the day after.

In order to create this type of corporate culture, Google has implemented as different type of Human Resource policy.  The hiring mechanics at this company are a lot different from other corporations that are in the same industry.  At Google, the emphasis is not so much on experience in the field but rather on ability.  This leads to the hiring of a number of employees who are actually a lot younger than their industry counterparts.  This is what creates the staff of Google that is actually a manifestation of the favorable reception that they receive from their global audience.

All of these aspects of workplace culture in Google are reflected in the corporate logo that it uses.  The use of fun colors and designs reflect the fun loving and relaxed corporate culture that Google cultivates.  As one of the top one hundred (100) best places to work[3], Google has been able to maintain its lead in the industry by sticking to this type of workplace culture.  It simply goes to show that it is not necessary to be a strict employer in order to elicit the type of dedication and productivity that brings corporations to the top.

Summarize the financial and non-financial services and support provided to Google employees

The founders of Google have firmly believed that the success of their company can be attributed to the way that they provide non-financial support and services to their employees.  While it may seem that this strategy is non-conventional, it has been shown that a good workforce is often characterized by individuals who are able to step up to the different challenges shown in the duration of the work.  This is important because it provides the motivation for most of the employees and also encourages creativity in dealing with work problems in this sector.

            Another important characteristic that Google uses is the presence of satisfaction and intrinsic rewards.  The presence of these characteristics, as found in the study involving a small sample of employees in schools, hospitals and other non profit organizations, has been found to not only signify the presence of a good workforce but also signifies the cultivation of a good working environment.   Incentives such as added bonuses and even non tangible benefits such as social contribution have been shown to be characteristics of a good workforce.  In light of this, Google provides employees with enough financial compensation to improve the quality of life, excellent benefits, and by maintaining the work life balance that is essential for productivity.

How do they motivate and empower their employees?

As one management guru has stated, given the proper tools, any group of individuals who want to make a difference will often do.  Google has succeeded in doing this by providing for a good work-life balance and by providing a relaxed corporate culture.  These programs are also pivotal in increasing the personal motivation of employees and greatly improving their job satisfaction.  When employees feel that the company is not only about making large profit margins but understands the needs of the employees, the employee is more motivated in contributing to the continued success of the company and job satisfaction increases even without a corresponding increase in salary.  The intangible benefits that are provided act as a better motivator than just financial incentives, particularly among those who are much older and have families.  Other companies and organizations which have implemented work-life balance programs have also noticed that the employees have reduced levels of stress as well as reduced levels of absenteeism. These work-life balance programs have also improved recruitment and retention rates of the companies and organizations as well as created better working relations between management and the employees.

            These benefits are the reasons that the issue on work-life balance is a becoming a key issue for Google and a must for every company and organization that seek to increase its productivity through cost efficient methods such as by developing its human resources.  The non-financial incentive such as allowing for a better work-life balance is able to improve the relationship of the company with the employee as well ensure the productivity and development of the human resources of the company.  In this light, Google has focused on improving he quality of the search by treating the users the same as their employees; providing them with the flexibility to become more productive.

How does the company encourage creativity and innovation?

Google has never been categorized as conventional and will never probably be characterized as such.  Despite all of this, it has managed to become one of the world’s most successful organizations in the world.  The retention of the small-company feel at Google has been pivotal to this because it respects the opinion of everyone within the company.  Everyone has a say at Google; be it from the rank and file to high management.  This is also the reason why each and every employee can proudly say that they were integral to the success of Google.

Google is no longer just a domestic company as it has expanded its operations and presently maintains a number of offices around the globe.  Though there are a lot of changes that occur when there exists a different culture, Google has been able to create a more indigenous culture by sustaining the positive work environment and culture that is has been known for.  The hiring of talented locals fits well with the search for perfection and excellence that Google embodies (as shown in its vision).

Most employees at Google thrive in a workplace environment that is characterized by small teams that are highly focused.  Even despite the size of these teams, they are able to produce in high energy environments because of their conviction that technology has the ability to change the world.  They also have the belief that they strive to be innovative and unique in the services that they provide.  It is the realization that employees who are well taken care of are more productive.

How do these policies and practices affect the business performance of the company?

Google is not only one of the most successful companies in the world but it is also one of the best places to work in.  The constant cultivation of employee potential and talent is what has propelled Google to its current status.  The Policies adopted in Google has created a great working environmental condition that helps to motivate the employees to be honest and hardworking.

THE FLIGHT CENTRE

What is the company’s vision?

The main vision of this company is to continually provide the services that their clients have been accustomed to for the next one hundred years (100) and beyond.  In order to achieve this goal, it is important for the company to abide by their vision, purpose and philosophy.  While it is a company philosophy to provide all the employees with equal privileges, it is a lot more difficult to sustain and carry out this policy.

Although the company maintains a non-hierarchical corporate structure, care must be taken so that this is not disrupted.  By offering the staff certain financial planning services, Flight Centre is able to give their employees the financial security that they need in order to achieve not only the goals of the company but their own personal goals as well.  With the aim to become the world’s most exciting travel company, Flight Centre envisions itself as delivering the amazing experience that its customers are accustomed to.

What’s unusual about the structure of this company?

Unlike other companies in this industry, Flight Centre’s Graham Turner has created several small units within the company that are similar to families and villages.  This unique system has made management of the company much easier since the incentives are provided based on the productivity or outcomes.  While it is similar to other result based incentives, it is actually a very unique mechanism because it caters to the needs and comfort level of the employees.

As opposed to forcing the employees to adjust to a strict corporate culture, Flight Centre instead molds the corporate image into whatever environment the employees feel more comfortable working with.  Different employees react differently to the rewards that are offered.  Yet one thing remains constant, the attitude that there is a reward for every job that is accomplished successfully.  The reward, however, is not only financial but non-monetary as well.  Employees at Flight Centre also get the opportunity to have company night out, team building activities and award ceremonies.

These policies are what enabled Flight Centre to make the transition from a fairly small company into a much larger one without causing a drastic overhaul of the corporate structure and image.  The Family, Village, Tribe structure that the company follows is best explained as follows:

Families – teams consisting of a minimum of three and a maximum of seven people.

Villages – three to five geographical teams that support each other.

Tribes – a maximum of around 25 teams with a single tribal identity that comes together for celebration and interaction.

This structure has given each and every unit its own identity without it losing its sense of focus and purpose within the corporate structure.

What principles is this structure based on and why may these provide powerful insights into managing people for leaders of organization?

The hunter-gatherer system that characterizes this group is based on the principle that people are more productive in environments that they prefer as opposed to environments wherein there is a need for them to adjust.  The relative ease by which people can become accepted inside the system reduces the learning curve and allows each and every new employee to quickly adapt and become productive in this environment.

Mintzberg’s five elements are clearly shown in these principles.  The fact that the system is more employee-oriented means that the focus of Flight Centre lies in ensuring that every person is well-suited to the workplace that they are immersed into.  This corporate philosophy provides more output.

How would you describe the working culture at FCL?

As one of the best places to work in, Flight Centre has lived up to its corporate vision of not only providing good service to its customers but also to its employees.  This reflects highly upon the management of Flight Centre in that it shows who really matter within the company.  The constant development on additional rewards and incentives ensures that Flight Centre will remains as one of the top corporations for many years to come.

How do they ‘motivate’ and empower their employees?

In previous centuries the jobs available to a particular person were often predetermined by the occupation of that person’s parent, in the recent years, however, more and more studies have come out showing the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance.  The reason behind this is that it has been shown in the Hawthorne Studies that individuals are willing to work for other benefits or factors besides pay or compensation.  This led to more research as to what other factors may prompt an individual to perform work and thus led to the study of the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance.  From a business or management perspective, however, the relevance of such a relationship has more to do with the ultimate goal of every firm which is the reduction of costs and maximization of profits.  As shown in this model, however, there is indeed a relation between the success of the company and the manner by which they are able to motivate their employees.

The monetary considerations that Flight Centre provides to its employees are not the main factors that motivate the employees.  As can be seen, it is not the immediate reward that employees are after but rather the future considerations.  The system of honors and achievement awards that Flight Centre provides gives the employees something more lasting than any monetary consideration.  The recognition that is provided not only cultivates a productive culture but also challenges others to become part of it.

From the very beginning, Flight Centre tries to cultivate this culture by informing new hires about the rewards they can get.  It also includes other categories such as consultant of the year, New Consultant of the year, Most Profitable Business, Most Productive Business, Most Improved Business, and Managing Director’s Award for Outstanding Achievement, the Achievers’ Club and the Profit Club.  It is here that the new consultants are briefed on what awards they can aim for.  In doing so, Flight Centre is able to keep the employees’ eyes on the prize from the very beginning, so to speak.

Summarize the range and financial and non-financial rewards that the company provides for its employees.

Flight Centre basically provides a while range of financial and non-financial rewards to all of its employees.  The motivational rewards that are given during the induction training lend to shortening the learning curve of most new hires.  While it may seem, upon closer inspection, that these incentives, in the form of reward and recognition policies, are not cheap, the overall pay off in terms of worker productivity and profitability do much to justify this.  This huge monetary investment, while not necessarily conventional, has paid off on all levels because it not only leads to higher profits but it also secures the future of the Flight Centre employees.

How do these policies and practices affect the business performance of the company?

            These policies and practices positively affect the business performance of the company because it creates a better working atmosphere.  It is this working atmosphere that leads to greater productivity and more profits.  In the long run, the continuous implementation of these policies creates a corporate image that attracts a lot of young and eager talent.  This in turn ensures that Flight Centre is able to get the talent that it needs in order to carry on its business for many years to come.

SUMMARY QUESTION

What are the main lessons that all business leaders can learn from the two case studies you have analyzed about creating high-performance work cultures and commercially successful companies?

In order to become of the leaders in the corporate and business world, one must take care to focus on what really matters.  As shown by this brief discourse, this can be achieved in one of two ways, providing exemplary service to the customers or by keeping the employees well compensated, in both financial and non-financial matters.  The commitment that is necessary in order to solicit the type of productivity that catapults a business to the upper echelons of the corporate world is non-conventional in the sense that it must be unrelenting in its pursuit yet flexible in its methods.  The non-financial incentives that Google and Flight Centre have implemented clearly reflect this type of mentality.

While it has been said that the credit for this must go to top management, it has also been shown that in more relaxed corporate settings it is teamwork that matters.  The common policy of combining work and fun in the same atmosphere is what has allowed these companies to maintain the advantage that they currently enjoy in the industry.  A perfect example of this is the reward policy that Flight Centre uses as well as Google. It is not so much that the company will lose out by investing heavily in its personnel but the fact that it is able to earn so much more in terms of productivity and profitability by doing so.  This is the principle that has been integral to the success of these companies.  The proper motivation and the proper incentive given to employees who are also committed to the same pursuit of excellence goes a long way.

Another key factor that Google and Flight Centre Limited share is the fact that they have broken down the previous barriers that existed in traditional corporate structures.  The open communication link that now exists between management and the employees makes it easier for a number of plans to push through.  It also makes it easier for employees to air their grievances and for management to come up with the appropriate action with regard to that problem.

Based on the case studies of Google and Flight Centre Limited (FCL), investing heavily on human resources is an excellent corporate strategy.  It shows that there is no need to sacrifice the welfare of the employees for more profit.  In fact, if anything, this model has shown that by profit sharing employees are actually more motivated.  They are happier with the work environment and contribute more to the company.  These strategies of Google and Flight Centre Limited must serve as a good example that business leaders in other business establishments follow or incorporate in their business undertakings to make them successful in the field.

[1] In several articles, the founders attribute their success to their ability to discern the weaknesses and faults of other search engine companies.
[2] Also known as Charlies Place
[3] 2007 and 2008 survey conducted by Fortune Magazine