Google HR: Pay ‘unfairly,’ give freedom & meaning

Laszlo Bock, the former senior VP of people operations at Google and author of the book Work Rules!, helped grow Google’s workforce from 6,000 to 76,000 in the past decade. At the SHRM conference this summer, Bock offered these tips for HR:   

Pay your employees ‘unfairly.’ “A great software engineer is worth 1,000 times an average one … The problem is that if you’re good at your job, you get a couple big raises and then you flatline.” (Bock suggests a 50% pay spread for top employees) … It’s going to feel wrong, but unless you do this your competitors are going to pick off your best people.”

Give jobs meaning. “Roughly a third of people find meaning in their jobs … Find out why people are doing and what’s meaningful to them.”

Give people freedom. “You want to give people a little more freedom than you’re comfortable with … they will repay you by being more productive and effective.”

Check in with new hires. New Google employees were taking nine months, on average, to become fully productive. Bock’s research found that new hires who got up to speed faster had three things in common:

  • They met more people.
  • They asked more questions.
  • They had the correct computer setup right away.

So the HR team began sending emails to all new staff and their managers that stressed the importance of connecting with each other and installing the correct equipment. The result: Average time-to-productivity at Google fell to six month. Says Bock, “If you give people these small interventions—these nudges, these checklists—it does make a difference.”