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Analysis of Google's Talent Management Approaches

Nyamweya is a global researcher with many years of experience on practical research on a diversity of topics

Introduction

Employees are the most critical resource in any business (Shuck, and Wollard, 2011). In this regard, talent management plays a crucial role in a business strategy considering that it entails management of a company’s people, who are its most significant assets (Khatri et al., 2010). This explains why it remains crucial for companies to exert a substantial level of effort in effectively managing its people so as to help them develop their capabilities, their skills, and their knowledge for the purpose of retaining them. Talent management entails effective hiring, managing, developing and retaining the most excellent and talented employees within the industry (Baqutayan, 2014).

Google Company is one of the organisations that have managed to retain and motivate its employees through its unique talent management strategy. The firm’s talent management strategy that has been developed over the years has managed to achieve a substantial level of success in hiring, managing and retaining a good number of employee portfolios in the company. The company which has for several years managed to remain top of Fortune’s 500 Best Companies to work for has provided a case study for many other companies on effective talent management. Therefore, this essay discusses Google’s strategy on talent management, possible pitfalls as well as recommendations on what the firm can improve its strategy for more effective measuring talent, hiring, management and retaining of unique talent.

Theoretical Background

There is a myriad of psychological and organisational literatures pertaining to measuring talent, talent identification, and developing/retaining talent. All these aspects are related to effective talent management whose ultimate purpose is to ensure that the organisation acquires the best talent, helps them to become the best while also motivating them to remain in the company (McDonnell, 2011).

Measuring Talent

In the business sense, talent refers to how well an individual performs in their respective jobs. In determining how well an individual performs, some kind of measurement tools (including psychological testing) methods is needed. In this regard, Bartram (2005) argues that a criterion focused approach, rather than a measurement focused approach should be explored in best predicting meaningful outcomes and behaviors. Such a criterion should be able to measure such aspects as competencies constituting of desirable qualities needed by an employer. Other ways to measure employee’s competencies include conducting survey research using questionnaires, interview, to measure behavior and outcome. De Meus et al. (2012) posts that an effective competitive advantage arising from talent management entails matching available jobs and talent in the organisation for the purpose of satisfying the demands of the business, as well as enable it achieve competitive advantage. Organisational responsiveness in matching available talent with the demands of the top job includes finding and recruiting the best talent, as well as introducing training or replacement programs. This is after employee progression processes whereby; competencies, potential areas of improvements in the existing employees are identified (McDonnell, 2011). The reason for introducing training and development programs could be a low labor market supply of good talent, job specialisation, and customer devotion, as well as to bar turnover (Grobler and Diedericks, 2009).

Talent Identification

Talent identification is essentially a process of identifying gifted/talented people currently working within a company and has a potential of improving their capability if assisted in one way or another. It differs from talent detection which is the discovery of talented people within the area/specialty of concern but who are not working the company (Baker et al., 2012). Talent identification is regarded to be a complex multi-dimensional process (Baker, Cobley and Schorer 2012). According to Baker et al (2012), the effectiveness of a talent identification strategy determines the performance of the general organisation. In other words, if the strategy to identify talent is weak, it will generate into less effective, disoriented employees which in turn would translate to low or poor performance.

There are different ways to identify and select talent. The most common is the use of the interview which may be either behavioral interview or situational interview. Behavioral interview is based on the assumption that past behavior is among the best way of predicting an individual’s future behavior and hence job performance (Huffcut, 2010). Accordingly, the interviewer tries to find out examples of desirable behavior from the candidate’s past behavior. The situational interview on the other hand, focuses at assessing how a given candidate will behave in an imaginary scenario in relation to the position he or she is applying for (Muchinsky, 2012). This approach is based on the assumption that individual’s intentions predict their future performance/behavior. Other means used in identifying ideal talents include the use of references, the use of a candidate’s biographical data, observations and role play in group discussions (Armstrong, 2012).

Retaining/Developing Talent

Retaining talent involves incorporation of strategies that are aimed at motivating employees to remain in the organisation and hence prevent turnover (Saar, 2013). This is quite important for an organisation’s competitive advantage since a firm will not have to use resources consistently in hiring new workers. Moreover, workers who have been working with the company long enough have expertise and unique experience that enables them to work efficiently, effectively, speedily and in a different way, thus generating not only higher productivity but also quality and innovativeness (Krasilshchikov, 2011). This provides a source of competitive advantage for a firm in relation to the same companies within the industry that experiences higher turnover. This thus provides a good reason on why companies should invest deeply on retaining and developing talent.

Accordingly, many businesses have devised practical methods in retaining talent as part of talent management (Hatten, 2019). Among these is training and development aimed to develop and improve their competencies in the workplace. This is thus a way of developing talent. Moreover, it is important for the management to consider rewarding and or punishing employee after conducting performance appraisals (Muchinsky, 2012). Employees who show impeccable service and performance need to be rewarded either through promotions, salary increase, appreciation etc. On the other hand, workers who show dismal results need to be punished so that they can improve accordingly. Rewards for behavior reinforcement could as well include such aspects as bonuses, a consideration of rate pay, vacations, promotions among others (Damij et al, 2015).

Analysis of problems or issues faced by Google and the strategy used to address these problems

Prior to changing its talent management strategy, Google faced a myriad of problems in its human resource acquisition and management. For instance, the selection and recruitment criteria led to acquisition of employees who were not actually fit for their jobs at their workplaces. In particular, data analysis on employee’s performance established that employee’s performance at interviews (which mainly consisted of asking interviewees brainteaser and tricky questions) did not actually correlate with their performances at their specific workplaces (Bryant, 2013). Laszio Block, the then vice president of People Operations at Google came to a realization that such questions were irrelevant towards acquiring talent that fit the specific jobs.

Another approach used by Google in the selection process was the potential candidate’s university grade. Again, from the data analysis and employee assessment at the workplace indicated that the approach was not equally successful as employee’s university grade did not actually correlate with their actual performance at the workplace. The selection criterion was thus disregarded. What these imply is that owing to such approaches, Google was not able to find the right talent to work in the work and it had to change the tactic. This owes to the fact that the selection processes deployed by Google elicited low reliability and low validity in forecasting future job performance. Consequently, this reduced the change for Google to identity and selects the right candidates. According to ebrary.net (2019), a valid and reliable selection process is important for three reasons. The first is that the employer is assured that those who have been selected have a prospect of performing well compared to those not selected. The second reason is that it facilitates a legally justifiable process and lastly it is acts fair to all applicants.

Accordingly, the management opted to replace the brainteaser interview questions with structured behavior interviews which appeared to be successful to some extent. Furthermore, Google’s disregard to university level candidates has seen it work with many employees who have even not gone to university. This is in recognition that the skills and expertise they require may not necessarily be developed in a formal education; rather they can be developed in a practical job environment.

Google’s current selection process has three main stages, a recruiter approaches a potential candidate through cold calling and guiding candidates on selection process, this is followed by a phone interview and on-site interviews with a team of around five or four people, and finally assessment of the interview and interviewees by people who were not part of the interview. The reason for using other parties that were not part of the interview was to avoid possible biases that were bound to occur if the process was solely left to interviewers. The structured behavior interviews by Google is based on job analysis where the worth of a given job responsibility is analysed and genuine related data collected through the interviews. This process is important in creating the right candidate-job fit as well as in enhancing the success of the management practices, which subsequently lays the basis of a strong entity (Muchinsky, 2012).

Furthermore, Google also came up with a program dubbed “Project Oxygen” which entailed data mining for the purpose of reviewing performance reviews, employee surveys, and management feedback reports in an endeavor to find the features of an effective leader at Google. Google’s “Project Oxygen” was particularly initiated owing to the belief that the best managers had the happiest, best performing teams who were also willing to stay in the company for longer (Bryant, 2011).

The introduction of “Project Oxygen” by Google was a result of the failed experiment by the company in doing away with managers. After this exercise whose aim was to accord employee’s sufficient autonomy in executing their duties as well in encouraging innovation, the founders found themselves in problems because they had to regular-day to day issues as well as being approached consistently for guidance and other issues in the workplace. This is why they came up with the program so that they can find suitable people-oriented managers who will go along with employees. The process was also in line with a report by TDK Technologies (2019) which suggests that successful leadership necessitates capitalizing on one’s strengths while managing weaknesses. Strength is defined as a near perfect, consistent performance in a particular role/activity. The common building blocks of strengths are skills, knowledge and talents. Therefore, natural talents determine whether one will be a leader or not.

Evaluating the extent to which issues at Google were addressed

Evidently, Google’s talent management approach has worked to some extent. For example, the company has since 2012 continued to top the list of Fortunes 100 Best Companies to work for. A majority of employees claim to be proud of their company while many of them also acknowledge the management to be ethical and honest. Furthermore, the company’s social philanthropic approach as well as support to charities is also valued by many of the workers. What is more, many people are also interested in working with Google because of the list of perks given by the company.

Nonetheless, more need to be done by the company to improve its talent management system. For instance, Google need to discard its anti-poaching agreements with other companies to prevent its workers from looking for “greener pastures”. Furthermore, the hiring process also needs to be revisited considering that Google still has a lower job tenure compared to other tech firms such as Microsoft and Yahoo among others. According to Lewis (2013), Google’s low tenure rate is a result of the ineffective identification and selection process which leads to many false positives.

Recommendations

Drawing from the analysis, it is clear that although Google’s talent management strategies have worked to a great extent, there is a problem especially in the recruitment process and retaining of employees. This is because as espoused by Lewis (2013) in his study, the selection and recruitment process applied by Google leads to many false positives and this could be the reason why retention rates are lower, despite applying various perks and incentives. However, what is more important at the moment is retaining employees at the company. This is the most critical issue at the moment (Sutton, 2014).

While recruitment is a crucial aspect of inclusivity and acquisition of the right talent, it is important that an equal level of attention and effort be exerted on retention strategies ((Sutton, 2014). In order to enhance its employee retention power, Google need to consider diversifying its employment pool. This diversification could include hiring Hispanic, black, and women in sales roles, business roles, technical roles and even in senior leadership (Saks, 2017). Companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, among others have been able to achieve a higher retention powers because of inclusivity of women, people from different races, ethnicity, religion and even nationality.

For Google to successfully implement diversity strategies in its workplaces, it has to change the culture of the organisation. At the surface level, the company has to evaluate whether it harbors diverse talent that is Hispanics, women, Blacks etc. Furthermore, the company needs to measure itself against others in the same industry against diversity aspect. The question Google management needs to ask themselves is that if other companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft among others are doing good in terms of retention through application of diversity, why can’t the company also experiment with this strategy? (The Guardian, 2017).

In order to actually find out on why retention is an issue at their company, Google management requires inviting their workers on a frequent basis to voice their opinions (Saks, 2017). This can be done through a survey or meeting which will greatly help in understanding inclusion, diversity and other challenges facing employees and the company (Saks, 2017). This will entail putting up effective communication strategies as well as interaction mechanism so as to allow employees get into contact with the management and air their views freely. After understanding what is making employees want to leave the company, the management should then initiate tactics that will help in preventing the same (DeIuliis, 2016).

From the analysis of Google’s case, it is apparent that the general concern of a majority of employees is that the company does not consider raising their wages. This is despite the fact that other welfare perks such as recreation time, Gym, time offs, and bonus are offered sufficiently (Sutton, 2014). Obviously, money is said to be the greatest motivator and most employees would always want to go out where they are assured of greener pastures (Damij et al., 2015). This is especially for those who feel that their talent, expertise, experience has moved to another level and hence; require being paid wages that are commensurate with increase (Mahal, 2012). If Google for instance, fails to recognise this need and keeps basic salaries static, then talented and experienced workers would have every reason to seek out opportunities that will guarantee higher pay. In this regard, Google need to consider raising pay for its people as a way of motivating them and encouraging them to work in the company (Damij et al., 2015). However, this will require that the company do away with some of the perks which may not be too necessary like the gym, swimming pool etc. Furthermore, the company needs to think of cutting down funds for some charities so as to reduce the overall cost of operation to enable it make profit.

The recommendations discussed here may be applicable to other organisations since it is a standard way on how employees can be managed effectively. For example, employees irrespective of the industry are motivated by better pay (Damij et al., 2015). This is the same case with employee engagement whereby; workers need to be valued and engaged in key company decisions.

Conclusion

Google has come a long way in terms of talent management. The company’s talent identification and selection strategies have been derived after a lengthy process and experimentation. There is no wonder then that the company is regarded as one with top talent globally. However, this analysis has shown that despite its success in identifying and recruitment the right employees, Google has still a problem when it comes to employee retention efforts. In fact, it is considered as being among the top companies with the lowest employee retaining power. Accordingly, it then becomes critical that the company initiates employee retention strategies including but not limited to increasing basic salaries of experienced and talented workers, enhancing communication and employee relations.


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