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Google Mania

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I spent Tuesday at the HRTech Europe Spring warm up event in London. In the time I had at the event I heard four people talk, here’s a brief summary.

I enjoyed listening to Mark Martin, Group HRD for Direct Line, anyone who prefaces his talk with ‘I could be mad, I could be right.’ is usually worth a listen. Mark went on to talk about how the transparency being driven by technology highlights the gap between what people say and do like never before. He also talked about how the user adoption of (HR) technology is much more important than its capability, yet a lot of vendors still sell on that capability, wise up HR!

Jason Averbook, Chief Business Innovation Officer from Appirio followed on and delivered his piece with humour, despite a somewhat reluctant crowd. He talked about self reliance being the new self service, the importance of being able to visualise (big) data and another thumbs up for user adoption, and how important it is for the user to feel they’re getting something useful back.

Next up was Caitlin Hogan, People Analyst from Google. This is where things started to get a little weird for me, as after telling us that Google has People Operations – that’s what other companies call HR, a lot of what followed was prefaced with little Google Badges (my choice of term), as if somehow putting the word Google on the front of stuff makes it like, waaaay cool. So we learned that people who work at Google are in fact called Googlers. If they are older, they are called Greyglers, and the gay community at Google call themselves, yep, you guessed it, Gayglers.

We learned that Google has an annual employee, sorry, Googler survey, in order to learn what is ‘top of mind’ for Googlers (actually, Caitlin had reverted to using the term employees by now but hey, I’m living the Google dream so don’t try and stop me). They call this survey the GoogleGeist. Pretty much every company I know has an employee survey (yawn), but stick a cool name on it and kaboom – it becomes double interesting. And pardon me – but if Google is so cool, can’t they find a way to check what is ‘top of mind’ among the Googulation (OK now I’m making these up myself) more than once a year?

Google does all kinds of cool stuff using Googalgorithms and the like in order to mine the data in the kajillion CVS they get from aspiring Googlers each year. They sift through all this stuff trying to find people with the right cultural fit. Now – I could be wrong here, but I reckon if you preface all the longer words in your CV with Google – you’ll sail right on in. In addition – they use the same maths and technology to search externally available CVs too. They do this to try and seek out aspiring Googlers who don’t even know that’s what they aspire too. Joking apart – I think that is quite an interesting thing to do, although how effective this is in increasing diversity as Caitlin suggested, I’m not sure.

We then moved on through what effective managerial behaviour in Google looks like. It’s basically the same as everywhere else (caring, coaching, productive, communicative, good at making up Googlewords etc), as is what makes a crap manager. For example, at Google, managers struggle when they demand authority and respect rather than earn it. Hold the front page.

I wonder if GoogleThink is becoming the new Kool Aid? This was one of the oddest, and for the most part, unrevealing talks I’ve heard in a long while, yet because it was Google – boy did it seem to go down well. I’m guessing that by now their global CV harvesting machine has rejected me, I’ll live with that.

Lunch was yummy and after that John Sumser took to the stage and blew me away. I’m still processing the crazy stuff he shared with us and I will write a piece about his talk, titled ‘Where do Ideas Come From?’ soon.

There are two streams on Wednesday’s agenda, which sadly I can’t make. Based on John’s talk today and based on a great TEDx talk I’ve seen by by Felix Wetzel, I’d go to the one they are both in. Whichever you choose to attend, have fun.

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