You’ve heard the stories.
Free gourmet meals, free onsite daycare, free haircuts, free dry cleaning, nap pods, gyms, swimming pools, bring your dog, foosball, pin-pong…
Google’s employee benefits package is famous. Mind-boggling even. If you’re a small business owner, it can be intimidating. How can you compete with it?
Forget competing with it. Focus on learning from it.
Google isn’t spending big money on perks to be nice. They’re doing it because it’s good business. Studies show a direct correlation between employee happiness and productivity. The most famous of these studies was done at the University of Warwick and “found happiness made people around 12% more productive.”
Given how many employees Google has, that 12% (per employee) creates a major productivity boost. It justifies their investment in gourmet chefs and hair stylists. What would your bottom line look like if each of your employees were 12% more productive? An attractive thought, yes?
But there’s more to this happiness thing than upping productivity. Google is also known for its low employee turnover, strong employee loyalty, and vibrant company culture. Let’s break these down into profitable business practices.
LOW EMPLOYEE TURNOVER
As you know, hiring, training, and bringing a new employee up to speed is a significant expenditure. Google saves millions of dollars (millions!) by retaining their employees. How? By keeping them happy.
STRONG EMPLOYEE LOYALTY
Google makes sure their employees and their families feel the Google love. Not just with fun things, like scooters, foosball tables, and nap pods, but also with major concerns, like child care, maternity/paternity leave, physical fitness, death benefits. Google employees know they are valued and appreciated. They reciprocate by not only putting forth their best work, but also by singing Google’s praises, i.e. word-of-mouth marketing. This is a boon for Google. Its employees not only attract clients to its brand, they also attract high-quality talent. This is invaluable advertising/recruiting that doesn’t involve Google’s marketing budget.
VIBRANT COMPANY CULTURE
Google employees have a saying, “once a Googler, always a Googler”. They’re a tribe, a family, a team. In this digital age, where we spend more time interacting with machines than we do with each other, this sense of unity is significant. It gives Googlers interpersonal connections and a sense of belonging that in turn fosters better physical and mental health (fewer sick days), increases creativity (better products), and results in higher quality work. Again, intangibles that have a huge impact on Google’s bottom line all due to their employees’ happiness.
TEAM MEMBERS, NOT EMPLOYEES
The biggest plus from Google’s investment in employee happiness? Its employees like going to work. They want to be there. They don’t see their jobs as work. They see it as a fun, exciting, challenging place to spend their days working on projects that excite them. This results in the high quality, cutting-edge, innovative technology we associate with Google. It makes the company a power house.
HOW YOU CAN PROMOTE THIS CULTURE IN YOUR BUSINESS?
So what’s the takeaway? You’re a small business owner. You’re not going to be offering free gourmet meals and a stable of scooters. How can you adopt the theory behind Google’s extravagance and put your own spin on it?
PROMOTE INTERPERSONAL CONNECTIONS
Google’s perks revolve around good old fashioned face-to-face interaction; they create opportunities for their employees to interact with each other. Free meals give Googlers time to sit with each other, talk, and learn about each other. Googlers are encouraged to join intramural sports teams, there are programs encouraging employees to support and reward each other, there’s a stringent hiring practices to ensure new Googlers fit with the existing community. Each “indulgence” is designed to get employees out of their heads, away from their screens and talking to each other.
This concept can be scaled to fit any budget. Here are a few suggestions:
- Monthly happy hour. This can be a voluntary, after-hours activity that not only allows your staff time to relax and get to know each other, but also a way to explore your city. Pick a new venue each month to keep it fresh.
- Group lunches. This can be brown bag or catered, depending on your budget. Encourage people to bring games, share desserts, or make it cook-off with prizes for the best dish.
- Team up for a cause. Have a bunch of athletes on staff? Organize a team run, walk, or relay to support a charitable cause. Supply team shirts and/or pay the entry fees. Schedule group training sessions.
- Flexible start/end times. This is a controversial topic, however, with more women in the workplace and more men actively participating in child rearing, flexible work schedules is a huge benefit. More and more workers are seeking it out. Making it part of your corporate culture demonstrates an awareness of and sensitivity to the at-home scenarios many employees juggle.
- Donuts! Nothing brings a group of employees together faster than a box of donuts. Surprise your group once a month or once a week depending on what you can afford.
The potential for happiness-inducing perks is limited only by your imagination. This list (http://fortune.com/best-medium-workplaces/) of Fortune Magazine’s 25 Best Small and Medium Companies to Work For can help stimulate more ideas.
It’s no longer enough for employers to offer a competitive wage, health care benefits, and retirement options. Employee happiness incentives are becoming de rigueur if you want to attract – and keep – quality talent. Google figured this out and embraced it. Your company may never be on par with Google, but it can certainly be the Google of your field/size. Give it a try. Your bottom line will thank you.
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