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The Google Bonus Leak and the Transparency Imperative

page 226x300 The Google Bonus Leak  Transparency, Transparency, TransparencyThis month Google’s new CEO, Larry Page, changed the bonus structure to focus on the success of their social strategy. It was announced in an annual memo entitled “2011 Bonus Multiplier.” One of the employees leaked an image of the memo to Business Insider. Soon after, everyone from media giants to personal bloggers jumped to condemn Page’s move with Larry Page’s First Blunder: Spam Grandma For Cash, Dear Google: You Can’t Threaten People Into Being Social, so on and so on. What had started as a simple internal memo on compensation was elevated to the news of the day because of one employee’s misconduct.

Unfortunately, this type of action is becoming more and more prevalent. Information has become so easy to share with the world.  The web provides us with a hood of anonymity and barriers like source checking are rare in online media. It’s always report first, fact check and retract later. We recently wrote a post detailing the importance of transparency in recruiting and retaining talent. Even the best companies have little control over the information that is available to the general public.

Why is this memo such news? Page is aligning bonuses to Google’s current goal: social. Why is that bad? He wants everyone, even those not specifically working on their social initiatives, to try the products out and encourage family and friends to do the same.

“This is a joint effort so it’s important that we all get behind it,” “When we release products, try them and encourage your family and friends to do the same.” said Page in the memo.

If each of Google’s 25,000 employees asked 5 friends to check it out, that multiplies to 150,000 people. Chances are if the product is at all useful, this action will make it catch on a little quicker. If there is an issue, one of those 150K will probably have an idea of how to fix it. It’s a smart move that will most likely pan out.

If Larry Page announced his intent to have all employees test their social efforts would this story be getting the same attention? googlecar 150x150 The Google Bonus Leak  Transparency, Transparency, TransparencyThe media has been searching for any action of Page’s which could signal a failure. Would they have treated the news with equal hostility or is the fact that a disappointed employee leaked the story what started the attack? Would that employee rather his bonus be tied to the success of Google’s self driving car? Transparency seems to be obligatory in our digital world. If you were in Page’s place, would you have handled this differently?

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