How Google’s People Analytics Helped Create a Great Workplace

As Steffen Maier pointed out in a recent issue of Entrepreneur, most companies use annual satisfaction surveys to measure the engagement of their employees.

Many HR managers believe that such surveys provide a snapshot to assess how happy their employees are in their workforce. But do these surveys really work? A number of HR leaders now question the accuracy and usefulness of these annual surveys.

According to a survey by HRmarketer and Impact Achievement Group, 48% of all respondents did not believe that these surveys provide an accurate and honest assessment. In contrast, only 31% of the respondents believed that the surveys are accurate.

The article featured how Google approaches its employee surveys. Their HR team, now known as the People’s Operation Team, uses a data driven approach to fine-tune different aspects of its processes. This allows them to align the feedback from employees with its unique work culture.

Unlike many companies whose apathetic employees do not answer the surveys, Google reports that 90% of its employees participate on average.

Google uses people analytics that mix qualitative and quantitative data, so that leaders can thoroughly analyze the inner-culture dynamics of the company. One of the key studies using people analytics to improve Google’s workplace is described below:

Project Oxygen

Although surveys indicated that most employees at Google have a strong aversion to hierarchy. People Operations used Project Oxygen to analyze the performance ratings of managers and the feedback from employee surveys. Then they cross-matched the results with metrics of productivity.

The found that great managers led to teams that were more productive and engaged. From this, the HR managers developed The Oxygen Eight Behaviors for Great Managers:

  • Empower the team and do not micromanage
  • Be a good coach
  • Be productive and results-oriented
  • Express interest and concern for the success and personal well-being of team members
  • Help with career development
  • Be a good communicator
  • Use your technical skills to advise
  • Have a vision

This study did not prove that managers were unnecessary. Instead, it showed that mid-level leaders were necessary to create the conditions that led other employees to thrive.

However, it did find that some management traits were in opposition to what Google’s employees needed from their manager. Micromanaging ranked number one on this list.

Google now uses this list to ID and train its leaders from within the ranks of the company. Mangers accept these standards more readily, since they came from data-based roots.


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