Oystercatchers Club | April 2013 | Talent | Caroline Chayot | Google

Oystercatchers Club | April 2013 | Talent | Caroline Chayot | Google

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Caroline ChayotSuki Thompson: It struck me that my god daughter is 21 and I saw her last weekend and I said “what are your 21-year-old friends want to do when they are all leaving university? Which companies would you like to work for?” And a lot of them said “Google.” And for us sitting here, Google, the growth, it is a cool company and you have great offices, you feed us nice food, you’re doing amazing things. And so it struck me that it is extraordinary that you can’t, that it is a difficult job to attract talent, the right talent, to manage them and make something of Google. So I’m really pleased you’re going to talk about two things, one) about what makes a Googler, because I think we’re probably all quite interested in that. And then secondly some of the issues that you experienced in perhaps the way your job is not quite as easy as we thought it might be.

Caroline Chayot: I’m at Google’s so I’ve got slides. But I’m going to peek through them quite quickly. So it is interesting you say that because a few years ago you were asking everyone – all these students, these graduating students where they wanted to work for and they used to say “Google” and now they say “YouTube” which is part of Google as you know. But YouTube has become cooler, I think, than Google. So I would still say “send me your CV.” So yes, my job is I deal with talent and HR at Google UK. It’s not as easy as you think. And we’ve got some talent issues that I love to speak about. So I love to speak about what we’ve done to really create this culture of innovation which nurtures and grows our talents naturally. So also what we need to address in the future because it’s not easy anymore, it’s competitive and we have reached the size of an organisation where we have a lot of talent and we need to know what to do with them. So that’s what I’m going to talk about in the next 10 minutes. So first of all, just to tell you the size of the organisation, its 50,000 people – 30,000 Googlers and 20,000 Motorola. So when we look at talent and we look at culture, which makes up talent culture, we had a nice conversation just prior to starting work be said “how do you keep that culture alive in all this over 40 countries in the world?” And that’s a big job, but we think that we are doing quite well on this front. I would love to share that with you. And the secret is people. So what we’ve done since the beginning, when Larry and Suki started about 16 years ago, they took time to hire people. And when I say they take time, I’m going to give you an example. I had 18 interviews and that was 8 years ago. _ hired myself _ the MD of the UK now has 24. So we took time and sometimes we lost people in the way. But we thought that if we hire the right people at the right place at the right time, they will help us to grow our talents. So we can’t make mistakes, especially when you hire at the senior level. So our secret is people. So I’ve got a cool job. And that’s from the IPO letter from 2004 that Larry and Suki route and they say, and it still stands true now, and it says “Google is not a conventional company. And we do not intend to become one. And we need to deal with Googlers differently and we need to keep our culture alive.”

Caroline Chayot: What makes a Googler is that really when you ask every single one of these 50,000 people, there is one thing that we all say which is “it’s kind of cool to work at Google”, but not because of the perks, not because of the benefits, not because of the colour of the offices and because we’ve got nice food, it’s because we work on things that matter. And we really see on a daily basis how we influenced lives of millions of people and that is kind of cool – to be part of this. It’s inspirational and I was just coming back from our sales conference we had in Vegas, so 13,000 people – it was the first time they did this – two weeks ago and they didn’t wow us like the used to years ago with innovative new products and new features and new things. They just reminded us of why we worked there at Google and what kind of lives we changed this year and we had an amazing non-famous people come on stage and say “that is how you influenced my life,” and that was just amazing to see. So that’s very Eric _ and he said “since the beginning what makes Google is innovation. Innovation should be at the heart of everything” and the story of innovation has never changed. It has always been a small team of people who have a new idea and then you make sure that the executive around them understand the idea and support them. And that is what we were talking about a few minutes ago, where in general idea is that Google, whether it comes from the engineering department or the sales department or the marketing department, always come from one crazy person who will have a crazy idea and I can give you examples. And it sounds crazy, but they have the courage to speak up and say “that sounds like it was broadly aligned with what we want to do, which is make as much information available to as many people in the world. Are you behind me?” And we give them time off to do this, we give them people and resources and money. And that’s how crazy ideas happened and that’s basically what makes our talent stick – because we know that at every level of the organisation, if you have an idea, you have to speak up. And there is different channels that we give them and I would go through that in a minute. So what are the two latest big ideas, but I can talk to you about small things, is Google glass. You must have heard of it. That’s crazy class that you put, in the US they have that everywhere and I find that so weird. So they walk around with these, especially in New York, walk around with the glass and basically you can do whatever you want with this glass. You can speak and say “glass take a picture” and “glass I want to go to Brooklyn, what is the fastest way?” And it tells you and it speaks to you and it is like a computer. It’s quite amazing and disturbing at the same time when you speak to someone who’s got a glass because you don’t know if they’d blink they are taking a picture of you. But that’s kind of cool and the idea is to really make information as available to everyone at any given time. So it’s not just a cool gadget, it is something that is going to touch millions of lives in Africa. As you know, in Africa, they don’t have computers, they don’t have tablets. Everything is done by mobile and Internet business is quite small. I think it is about less than 30% in developing countries. But if we manage to give them glass it would mean giving them information and giving them a way of communicating with each other all the time and that could be transforming their lives.

Caroline Chayot: Driverless car – that is a car that drives by itself. It’s crazy, it’s something that was actually spoke to Lyon Sergie and Suki plus Eric about 10 years ago, this crazy person at Stanford. I have to stop saying crazy. This professor at Stanford came and talked to Larry and Suki at one of the board of director meetings and said “you want a crazy idea? Well, I’ve got a crazy idea. I want to build a car that will drive by itself.” Everyone in the room laughed but Larry, who said “hold on, what would you do with this?” And the person explained and said “well, that’s how many lives are killed on a yearly basis due to road accidents and that how many people can’t access anywhere in the world because they can’t drive.” And in the US if you don’t have a car, you can’t go anywhere almost. So Larry said “okay, well, I’m going to create this sale called Google X, it’s like the coolest department you can work at Google right now because they work on these mental ideas and we call them 10 X. So it’s like what were you going to do, something you think that is not even thinkable now, you multiply by 10 and then this is where we are going to get to. And finally, the car has been constructed and is available, it’s a prototype still, but it is run in California and around the state of California has made them kind of legal. So you will see more of those very soon.

Caroline Chayot: To go back about talent, good people – when you hire people at Google, you have to think about one thing, is that good people know good people. If you are in Google, you must know good people that you want to work with. And don’t worry about the level of seniority, don’t worry about the fact that they might be smarter than you. Actually, always hire smarter than you, always hire people that you can learn from. Don’t be scared because if you have ideas, and it you’ve got skill and the will, then you will find a job for yourself. But hire people. And I was at the beginning it was actually outstanding to see people were actually hiring their own bosses and it was kind of cool to see. So if you hire the right people, if you give them space for innovation, if you mentor the construction of innovation that will bring you even more talent. And how you maintain this culture of innovation is kind of part of my job. So you hire the right people, which is what I was talking about. And you hire people that are generalist – people that you think, hold on, they might not be exactly the fit that I have with the job description right now, but they could be an amazing for the future. And that’s the people we want. We don’t want to hire for needs that we have now, but for needs that we think we might have a future. So most of the people I’ve hired and I used to be the recruiter for the marketing team here, I’ve hired a brain surgeon, people who work at NASA, somebody who worked in charity work in a school in Africa, I’ve hired the translator I was telling you about, and all these people are – actually three of those are working at Google X, this cool sale Department that we have. So really hire generalists who have a strong bias for actions and who are owners. People who will be able to see an issue, see a problem, see a challenge, an opportunity and make their own and go with it. Then you give them the raw material and the raw material is everything from space, actually space to talk and get feedback from the people that they work with. We don’t have a lot of offices – closed offices. Everything is done in open offices, everything is done so that the Department can swap seats and talk to each other and that is the first thing. We give them time, so 20% of your time. If you want to innovate you can spend this time on innovation. And we give them access. So we have this rotation program we were talking about. So we swap people from one department to another so they can learn and share best practices, ideas, etc. That’s where you are going to raise a flag. That means I’ve got a few minutes left. Then you create only as much structure as necessary and we are actually looking at how everything is done with data.

Caroline Chayot: My job is done with data and we are actually looking at data right now that would and we are thinking very big here, we are actually thinking “do we really need managers at Google?” We’ve got is all layers of management, do we actually need them? That’s a proven from innovation happening and that is how we think. So we want as small a layer as we can, so right now, for example, Marie brought in _, who is six and that is the maximum you can have – 6 to 8 people to Larry. And then make managers resources not your bosses. They shouldn’t be people who prevent you from doing things, they should be people who say “yes. And?” who support you and do not dictate but actually embrace your ideas and support you and give you the right support at their management level. And then we give a lot of tools for people to say if they are happy or not happy or if they have ideas and that is all of that. But we’ve got this kind of happiness survey where people are very open about what is working and what is not working. We could write to Larry and get the response. We’ve got this prerogative buster kind of session where we put everyone in the room and sort of say “what’s not working?” And then we fixed it. Everything at Google changes from one day to another and you just have to hire people that can adapt easily because if you can’t adapt easily and if you are not versatile than that is a difficult culture to adapt to. And then we reward them. So once you get base pair out of the way, because we know that we pay our employees fairly according to market reference points that we have, we pay for performance. So we’ve got data to assess performance and we pay people for their performance. And then we give them stock in the company. And so every year we review the number of stocks that people have, shares, and then we give them more to people that we think have an impact on the company. Because if they are attached to what the company stands for and does, you make them feel more involved and that is important for us. For we reward risk-taking. We never, ever tell people off for failing. That’s one thing that we don’t do. If you fail – if you’ve done everything and you fail that’s okay. Someone else will help you make it a success. And it’s like product – we don’t click through for products on a daily basis that you don’t see. We take them out and say “this is not working.” And we call it beta testing. We tested with people, if it’s not working we take it back and launch it six months later with a better version and that’s what we did with android phones etc. We let people try out. And that’s the next question you must have, which is “how do you keep talent?” And it is very hard at the moment because you’ve got other companies that are basically, half of them are ex-Googlers. So take Facebook, take Twitter, take squarer,_was not far. All of them – it’s like about 2500 employees globally and they are all made up half from Googlers. So all the tricks I gave you, they have them. And they’ve got the network and they are friends and it’s easy for them to build their teams. And part of my job as well is to really understand, out of all these amazing 50,000 people that we have, who are the top talent that we have to retain. It’s difficult but we have to be even more selective now and nurture the top talent that we have. And be ready to lose people and be ready to welcome them back as well because some people, especially in the US, if some people try out and do new things and then they look at the door and it’s okay. We are friends, we welcome them back.

Suki Thompson: So sorry Caroline. If you interview people 18 times, what do people ask them if you’ve got 18 different people?

Caroline Chayot: Hold on, that’s not true anymore. Now it’s four. So we had people and ideas team who did an amazing job looking at trends of interview data and where is the decision basically made and at what stage of the interview process is the decision basically made? And we discovered it was the fourth interview. If the four interviews are aligned, then it’s fine. We can take the risk and it is quite low. All the rest is just because we didn’t want to take the risk. But you wouldn’t imagine, I mean, we ask every stupid question that you might have heard. Very, very non-interesting questions like “calculate the number of hairs that a dog has?” Just to see how people think. Does it really matter? No. So we kind of ask these kinds of questions and we test different things. We test their general ability to do the job, they’re smart and that is the question that we ask. We put them in as a case study and see how they interact. We test their leadership, whatever level of the organisation they enter because you can always understand what kind of leader you are about to hire, even with people that have never done any leadership roles, but things they have done at University, etc. And hobbies and googliness and the googliness part is basically “could do you spend 24 hours stuck in an airport that person and still have something to say to each other 24 hours later?” That’s basically question we ask ourselves and if you test these four areas and everyone agrees that it’s a match, then that is fine.

Suki Thompson: Thank you Caroline, that is really good.

Sam Jones