Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Employee engagement 2.0 has arrived courtesy of Google

By James Bennett, Managing Online Editor, Melcrum (May 20, 2009)

If you thought Google employees were the most engaged in today’s cutthroat and recession-riddled corporate world, think again. Despite receiving more than 700,000 applications a year to work for the planet’s most forward thinking Web 2.0 outfit, the company has seen hiring slow, been forced to cut back on some of its infamous perks such as afternoon tea and its annual ski trip and has even seen some of its most talented Googlers jump ship to competitors such as Twitter and Facebook.

So what has it gone and done? Well being the most advanced and innovative algorithmic genius in its class it’s gone and done what it’s best at doing - created an algorithm - but this time has taken employee engagement 2.0 to an entirely new and never-before-seen level. It has produced an algorithm so advanced and so ingrained in the employment and engagement process that it can supposedly crunch employee data such as appraisals, salaries and promotion history and decipher who among its staff is the most unhappy and who among the 20,000 engineers, developers and nerds it employs is the most willing to leave. Not only does it know every move we as web users make online, it can now pry into the work-life habits of its own and work out who should stay and who should go. It’s hard to fathom but Google’s boffins know the answers before their staff do.

Currently in a test phase, the system, if proved effective – and it would have to be faultless considering the information it gathers and the consequences it could have on people’s lives – could forever change the way businesses and their internal communications departments around the world vet and engage or even dismiss their employees.

The web giant has so far, however, discovered one key trend. Those of its employees that feel underused are more likely than others to leave. But the further it looks into the problem and examines employee reviews and pay histories the more I can imagine it will uncover more detail about how its workers think, behave, and react to certain emotions and situations. The key element will be to determine whether or not this research is effective in engaging more staff, unearthing those that are unhappiest and crucially, considering the economic times we are living in, what result this has on the bottom line. Could this be the ultimate tool, the Holy Grail, that we’ve all been looking for, to finally and accurately measure how we can effectively engage our employees and return a healthy profit in order to keep share and stakeholders happy? The possibilities, as with anything this company seems to do, are endless.

Google’s engagement algorithm – why now?

Crunches data from employee reviews, promotion and pay histories in a mathematical formula to identify which of its 20,000 employees are most likely to leave.

Google officials are reluctant to share details of the formula that is still being tested.

Google says the algorithm has already identified employees who felt underused, a key complaint among those who contemplate leaving.

Current and former Googlers said the company is losing talent because some employees feel they can’t make the same impact as the company matures.

Google's algorithm has been described by one HR commentator as “helping the company get inside people's heads even before they know they might leave”.

In recent weeks several top executives has left the company including advertising sales boss Tim Armstrong and display-advertising chief David Rosenblatt, Doug Bowman, engineering director Steve Horowitz and search-quality chief Santosh Jayaram, both of which have switched sides to Facebook and Twitter.

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