Is Google Smarter Than Your Company With Talent?

Kris Dunn Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Onboarding, Recruiting

I may have to turn comments off on this one – such an obvious question for most people that I expect the caveman, ALL CAPS responses like "H#@! YEAH!!"… Thanks in advance, Nostradamus….

In news you might have missed in 2007, Google announced it was missing its quarterly earnings targets, in part because it overhired.  From the wire report:

“We overspent against our own plan in the area of headcount, and some of it was …Google_2  because we hired a little faster than we had planned,” CEO Eric Schmidt told analysts during Thursday’s conference call (Google hired 1,548 people during the quarter, “the majority in sales, marketing and engineering positions.  In looking at it we thought, was this a mistake or not? We decided it was not a mistake, that in fact, the kind of people we brought in are so good that we’re happy we did this. As I said earlier, we will continue to watch this very carefully in the future.”

So here’s the deal.  Google has the ability based on their business position to hire more people than their budget called for, and has so much market power right now they don’t even have to worry about the quarterly earnings call.  You and your company?  Four levels of approval for any new hire, whether it is a budgeted new hire or a backfill.

Does that make Google smarter than your company since they are willing and able to invest in talent?  Here’s the take from a couple of people I like to read.  First up, Google thoughts from John Hollon at Workforce:

"It’s easy to dismiss Google’s decision to over-hire as a luxury that can be indulged when your company has a stock price over $500 and a market cap in excess of $162 billion. That’s certainly one way to look at it. Of course, you can also view this—as I do—as just par for the course with Google, another one of the smart business and workforce decisions that helped to build a mega company with a mega stock price and gigantic market cap. Yes, the rich get richer, but sometimes, they get richer because they are smarter. So it goes with Google."

To attempt to find a counterpoint, I turn to Former Netscape wonderboy Marc Andreessen, who recently issued caution in viewing Google’s talent approach as too special (Note, he’s talking about the talent approaches of both Microsoft and Google):

"Now, on the one hand, you can’t question the level of success of either company.  Maybe they’re right.

But maybe, just maybe, their success had a lot to do with other factors — say, huge markets, extreme aggressiveness, right time/right place, key distribution deals, and at least in one case, great products."

My take?  I agree with John that you can’t dismiss the current Google approach as simply the actions of a company flush with cash.  After all, they built the thing to where it is today.  Plus, they’re profitable, so the over hiring can only be coded as strategic in my eyes. 

I just wish there was some way to plug the Google team into a struggling company, and someone like Andreessen into Google, etc.  Or better yet, folks like you and I into the Google team!  Then you could evaluate the whole nature/nurture argument that Andreessen brings up related to Google being special.  I think we would find a mix – there are certainly elements to what has been built that are truly special, but given the opportunity, people like you and I could likely thrive in the environment as well.

Of course, for the HR side of the experiment I would pick you as the VP of HR.  You’re up for doing away with the four levels of approval and hiring super talent above the plan, right?   Having a spread of food for the employees at no cost ever day, right?   I thought so…..

Now back to work!!  Keep your eye on the street issues like how to keep the $$$ managable in your offer process, etc….

Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He's also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.