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Google: Keeping staff happy is down to experiments, not just laundry

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Just how far does Google go to try and retain employees in a highly competitive, staff-poaching industry?

Slate's detailed analysis of the tech giant's methods outlines a number of the ways that Google attempts to keep its employees happy and content -- whether through offering free gourmet food, a gym, childcare or on-site laundry facilities -- but it's not just for the sake of being nice.

Happier employees equals better productivity. In addition, as the tech industry expands, the demand for highly skilled workers continues to rise, and retaining staff you have spent time and money training is paramount.

How you work out the best and most cost-effective ways to retain staff as part of this long-term strategy is where Google stands out. The California-based firm has a department called People Operations -- "POPS" -- which is more like a science lab than HR department, headed by Laszlo Bock.

The POPS department runs "dozens of experiments on employees" to determine how to maximize their happiness levels. Slate says:

"Under Bock, Google’s HR department functions more like a rigorous science lab than the pesky hall monitor most of us picture when we think of HR. At the heart of POPS is a sophisticated employee-data tracking program, an effort to gain empirical certainty about every aspect of Google’s workers' lives."

When you should give staff stock, a cash bonus or increase pay was one element the department tackled in 2010. After analyzing data, a base pay rise of 10 percent was given to Google employees worldwide, which in turn reduced the rates of staff defecting to rival firms.

Another problem POPS had to investigate was the rate of women leaving the firm which at the time was double the national average. It was found that new mothers caused the disparity. Google offered an industry-standard maternity plan, between 7 and 12 weeks of paid leave depending on state. However, after Bock gave expectant mothers flexible terms on five months of full pay, this resulted in a 50 percent reduction of new mothers taking their leave permanently, which benefited the firm as it kept more employees and avoided the lengthy and expensive process of hiring new staff.

"We make thousands of people decisions every day—who we should hire, how much we should pay them, who we should promote, who we should let go of," Prasad Setty, who heads POPS' "people analytics" group, told the publication.

"What we try to do is bring the same level of rigor to people decisions that we do to engineering decisions. Our mission is to have all people decisions be informed by data."

It's no wonder Google remains king on Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For list. However, if the tech giant isn't your cup of tea, there's always SAS or the Boston Consulting Group who also keep their staff happy. Sorry to say, Amazon, Apple and Facebook haven't made the list this time around.

(via Slate)

Image credit: Scott Brownrigg Interior Design

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— By on January 22, 2013, 8:20 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure