Google’s Staffing Problems Can Teach IT Leaders A Lot

by drjim on July 2, 2009

Google's Having A Common Staffing Problem - Will They Be Able To Fix It?

Google’s Having A Common Staffing Problem – Will They Be Able To Fix It?

If you could go to work for any company out there right now, which one would it be? A lot of us would say Google – everything that we’ve read and heard about the company makes it seem like a great place to work. However, it turns out that even Google is not immune to IT staff problems…

Google’s Staffing Problem

Google is in the middle of what is often called a “brain drain” – some of its best and brightest workers are leaving the firm to go join other companies. In the past few weeks they’ve lost Tim Armstrong who was their advertising sales boss and they’ve lost David Rosenblatt who was in charge of their display advertising. Oh, and they are losing their top engineers to Twitter and Facebook

What’s Google Going To Do?

Google’s plan to try to stem this exodus of talent is a typical Google solution – they’re going to try and solve it by crunching numbers. Unlike many IT firms, Google has both the data and the processing power to attempt this.

Google plans on using data that they’ve collected from surveys and peer reviews in order to discover which of its employees feel underused. This may sound a little far fetched, but Edward Lawler who works at the University of Southern California says that eventually all companies will be approaching HR issues this way.

What’s Gone Wrong At Google?

Using algorithms to find unsatisfied workers is clever and all that, but clearly there is something else going on here. Interviews with former Google employees reveal some interesting things about the day-to-day practical realities of working in this high-tech Shangri-La.

Former employees reveal that people are leaving because many employees don’t feel that their efforts will make the same amount of impact as the company matures from its startup days. Compounding the problem is the fact that Google does not appear to provide much in the way of formal career planning. Often these tasks would be addressed by a company’s Human Resources (HR) department, but it appears as though Google’s HR department is viewed by many as being quite impersonal.

So What Should Google Be Doing?

As amazing as it may seem, the answer to Google’s problems is actually very simple – hard to implement, but simple to describe. What they need to do is to put their customer first. By clearly communicating to the entire company that Google exists to serve their customers, a great deal of other staffing problems will fade away.

Final Thoughts

One of Google’s biggest problems is that they have not found a way to keep their employees engaged. This isn’t surprising because Google dominates its market and so it doesn’t have any big competitors to use as a rallying cry.

Making its customers first would allow Google to focus its staff on a single goal that would extend throughout the company All of a sudden every employee would have a way to measure the value of his/her work. Once again, this wouldn’t necessarily be easy to do, but it’s the right thing to do. If you can figure out how to do this with your team, then you will have found a way to transform yourself from an IT manager into a true leader.

Questions For You

Do you think that Google’s algorithm will be able to identify those employees who might leave? Do you think that it will make mistakes? Do you think that this type of algorithm would work at your company? Do you think a customer focus would solve Google’s staffing issues? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

It may seem a little crazy to talk about how to handle promotions during an economic downturn, but they are still happening (hey, sometimes self-promotion yields results!) Additionally, once the world economy picks up again, there will be even more of them. What’s an IT Leader who was once “one of the guys” to do when he /she is suddenly their boss?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brett Miller August 6, 2010 at 2:33 am

Here are some of the drawbacks to using a staffing company (from the perspective of a developer):

http://cspreston.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/drawback-it-staffing-companies/

Thanks,

Brett Miller
dev@customsoftwarebypreston.com

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson August 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Brett: Good article. I guess that just like everything else in life, a staffing company has its place — you just need to take the time to see where they fit the best for you…

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