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How Does Google Measure Company Culture?

Source | | Caroline Styr

So says Brigette McInnis-Day, Head of HR at Google Cloud.

Brigette was one of three HR experts who formed a panel to discuss the Future of HR for the first episode of series 11 of the Digital HR Leaders podcast. In conversation with Dave Ulrich, and Rupert Morrison, CEO at orgvue, Brigette ruminated on the most common questions she gets from both customers, “What is Google doing from a people perspective with regards to organisational change and culture?” and candidates, “How is Google going to manage their culture during times of change?”

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at some of the insights Brigette shared around culture at Google:

  1. How do culture, value and behaviours interact?

  2. What role does leadership play in building and sustaining the right culture?

  3. How is Google measuring culture?

How do culture, value and behaviours interact?

Over the last year, HR has taken centre stage to keep employees healthy, maintain morale and oversee a rapid shift to remote working.  Some have even likened the CHRO in 2020-21 to the CFO in 2007-09 during the financial crisis. HR could make or break a company’s ability to navigate the pandemic – and the HR functions that are getting it right have made their value to the organisation abundantly clear.  

Brigette thinks that “HR is also too humble about the impact they deliver and struggle sometimes with the messaging, because they are just continuing to focus on the work.” In reality, it’s vital to showcase to business leaders how HR delivers business value. Linking culture to value is also worthwhile, as the organisational culture enables value to be delivered, according to Brigette.

Let’s take a moment to think about the difference between value and values. A company often has a set of values that they operate under, in order to create a culture that enables value to be delivered to customers. Google’s set of values is enshrined in a list of ten beliefs: “10 Things we Know to Be True”. The list includes: ‘Focus on the user and all else will follow’; ‘It’s best to do one thing really, really well’; and ‘You can be serious without a suit’.

Taking it one level deeper, it’s not just a set of values that drives the right culture, but also a set of behaviours. When the pandemic hit, Brigette’s team slowed down some of their culture work to focus on building customer empathy and the related behaviours required to do that. Rupert Morrison explains, “you need to understand each role in the context of what you are trying to achieve: the outcomes […]. Then it is the skills and also the behaviours that you expect from [your people] so you can execute the strategy and hit the goals that you are trying to achieve.” 

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