People analytics: How Google does HR by the numbers

29 Oct

Google has provided some clear perception into its innovative, data-driven HR process. Kathryn Dekas, a manager in Google’s “people analytics” team, speaking at O’ Reilly Strata said that all people at Google decide things based on data and analytics. The decisions include compensation, talent management, hiring and all other HR issues. Google’s data-based HR might become a significant element in the company’s future success.

At Google, with 28,000 employees and a constant stream of new hires, HR is an important topic. Regarding Google’s engineering roots, HR is just another area of the company. They consider the functions of HR to produce data and to justify decisions and policies. This resulted in the initiation of a people-analytics team, hodgepodge of data miners, who extract patterns from data, psychologists and MBAs. Among the team’s endeavors, better known is Project Oxygen, Google’s quest to build a better boss. Earlier, Project Oxygen set out the determination that manager are unnecessary and Google got rid of them. Later they were re-introduced. Still there persist a belief that manager do not make any difference. Hence, the analytics team examined the combination of performance review data and employee surveys, where employees review their bosses to determine whether there were significant differences between the impact of the best and worst bosses. The answer from the data was a resounding “yes”.

People analytics team checked out to determine the common characteristics of the best managers and how to enhance the skills of the worst managers. The result was a list of the 8 skills of a good manager. Boss’s technical expertise was given much less important whereas the ability to take a genuine interest in employee’s lives and careers were taken in consideration.

One of the best practice that Google has ever introduced was to institute one-on-one meetings with all team members, based on the insights form Project Oxygen. The common behavior among the worst managers was that they were not consistent in who they offered one-to-ones. Google re-structured its training for new managers according to the results. One year later, 75% of the struggling managers improved significantly.

Google also undertook a project to forecast the future organizational structure of Google based on present hiring and promotion practices. The conclusion was that if Google prolonged to promote at the current rate, then it would end up “fat in the middle”, with many middle-ranking employees and fewer opportunities for junior hires progress. So Google started a new practice where the company does not deal directly either to replace promoted employees or the employees who leave the company and it hired new lower-level employees. People analytics team predicted that this would promoted career advancement easier for junior employees.

Debunking HR myths also became an important function of the analytics team. Like any other company, Google also had erroneous beliefs on HR issues that employees at Google’ headquarters were promoted quickly than those in other Google offices, which is false idea. The analysis disclosed that getting feedback from senior peers was the important factor if one wants to promote within Google.

Google’s HR process is the peak of data-driven people management, at present.

Source:  venturebeat

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