Getting Old School Google on your Talent Retention

It was a company who misspelled their "to be" name on the business registration papers.  That name then became a verb, and the verb an inextricable part of American, then global, culture, all the while keeping the smart people who worked for them happy and continually ranking among the top places in America to work.  Not bad for people who didn't proofread their business forms.

I live with, and love, an amazingly brilliant computer programmer and systems administrator.  Alan is probably one of the smartest people with computers that I've ever known, and that's saying something.  For years now, I've watched him salivate over ads for Google jobs.  Not jobs on Google.  Jobs AT Google.  It's been his dream since before he could do differential equations (and I don't know what those are, but I know that he can do them, and that they are impressive).  Because of Alan's Google job drool, I've been subjected to countless discussions with him and others in my geek cavalcade about how and why Google is the most amazing workspace on the planet.  I'd love to say they're blinded by nerd lust, but the fact of the matter is that even after losing a two year crown as Fortune's Best Company In America to Work For in 2009, it's not like they took that much of a tumble from spot Number 1 to spot Number 4.  Even in a post recession, gotta-cut-some-perks-or-the-share-holders-will-kick-my-butt-world, Google and it's 14 Billion dollars of capital are doing just peachy and keeping a tight grip on those great minds.

What was the Google secret?  We're talking about an organization here who's employees quote the mission statement in everyday conversation.  The only other place I've seen that breeds that - The US Marines... and at Google you do a whole lot less push ups.  Just what exactly did they putting in their workplace vat to concoct not only a fun environment, but also to get the finished results of loyalty, production, and innovation?

I'll give you a hint:  It's not as much about the gobs of money as you might think.  (And no, it's not a magic chemical in the water either.  I think.)

Sure, if the stock in our REIT was sitting at $700 a share, we could afford to give our people some outlandish perks as well.  We might just spring for more than day old bagels and some store brand coffee for our staff meetings. Wouldn't that be a hoot?!  I remember the celebration and Snoopy dancing that happened when one REIT's stock got all the way up to $143 a share a few years ago.  It was the high point and MAN was that a big deal!

In all seriousness, I'm not advocating that we start having Maggiano's cater our staff meetings (Oh that would be SO good...), or that we start reimbursing up to $500 for an employee in the month after they've had a baby (to defray the cost of take out food... with receipts, of course), but a lot of what I've seen in my recent research on Google and it's perks, plans and appeal, many are ideas that can, if at a smaller level, be implemented on site or at a corporate level without increasing much in the way of cost.  Besides, it could just be that one of the articles I read from 2007 had the right idea here: "Is Google a great place to work because its stock is at $483, or is its stock at $483 because it's a great place to work?"

Looking at it from a logical point of view, one of the biggest slams to our budgets is the dent in our NOI when we have to deal with employee turnover.  Did you know that to fire or replace an employee from a job that pays up to $30,000 a year can actually end up costing the company from $45,000 to $60,000 when all is said and done?  We lose 12 people a year and we've just cost the company over half a million dollars.  I don't know what kinds of numbers you look at, but to me, that's a lot of money.

People are the biggest and most important asset any organization has.  They're also the biggest liability.  Employee retention is about pushing people who are on the fence between the two pastures back on the asset side.  You do this by energizing them, by motivating them and by appreciating them.  (Google also kind of bribes them, but it's disguised as motivation and appreciation, so it flies there.  Don't try that at home, kids.) 

What's that?  I know you can smell it.  It has the faint air of... Oh that's right, A BLOG SERIES!  That's right, good readers, for the next 4 weeks, T days (Tuesday and Thursday) are all about Talent Retention! Yes, we'll be doing it two days a week, frankly, because this is a subject in our industry that's worth at least twice the time it's usually given!  We'll be talking about different ways to keep your amazing assets and investments (I'm not talking about the buildings here) running with energy, vigor and excitement, almost reminiscent of their trainee days, before they got all jaded and annoyed with people asking whether or not they have a package.  We'll take a look at some of those old school Google gifts, explore some new ideas, and come up with some actionable ideas, all of it leading up to my presentation at the Northwest Trends show on December 8th in Seattle entitled, "Award to Reward and Retain Who You Train!"  It's at 8:15 AM, so if you're in my area, come check it out and get to the office by 10, armed with new ideas on how to keep the best talent.

Talent Retention T-day - What could Google's 20% do for your business?

5 Minutes to Read It, 5 Hours to Mull It - Check out Mike Brewer's Post!