Case study: how Google uses people analytics
Google’s analytical, data-driven approach to its HR system has certainly made waves. The technology company prides itself on its ‘people analytics’ – a mix of quantitative and qualitative data analysis that combines hard numbers with human feedback. In fact, the results of this analysis have shaped the company. Google states on its website that it “use[s] people analytics as a foundational building block that informs everything we do to find, grow and keep Googlers.”
This strategy not only replaces anecdotal and untested strategies with processes backed up by data, it also helps to engage employees who know that their feedback has a direct impact on human resources across the company. The company has an employee survey participation rate of over 90 per cent.
Google’s HR department – People Operations – used a mix of productivity data and employee feedback to determine employee behaviors and skills through Project Oxygen, an initiative designed to find out what successful Google managers do. Performance ratings and employee feedback were analyzed and compared with productivity metrics to determine the impact of different leadership styles on employee engagement and productivity.
From this, Google was able to create the ‘Oxygen Eight Behaviors for Great Managers’ and used it to train and select its company leaders. This is a process that can be easily adopted by other companies – HR software can be used to analyze performance and productivity, while gathering staff feedback adds a human layer of analysis that can be used to determine where your best leaders are – and how others can improve. If you expect the best from your teams, there need to be effective leaders guiding them.
It’s not just leadership roles that can be assessed and developed through people analytics. In Project Aristotle, the strategy was applied to entire teams in the company, determining which teams were the most effective – and more importantly, why that was the case.
The combination of hard data with human experience allowed for analysis that went beyond performance stats to assess team leadership, cohesion and other qualitative factors that helped certain teams outperform others.
Once more shaping company policy from its analytics, Google also used the findings to create list of five ‘essential factors’ needed to create a positive work environment. This project is another that other companies can learn from – taking the time to research why teams perform well, instead of just tracking productivity data, can develop a winning formula that can be rolled out to teams across the company; a formula bound to be embraced by employees who know the strategy has been devised from their own feedback and experiences.
People analytics adds a layer of human experience vital to making employee engagement part of a company’s HR strategy, demonstrating to teams that their views on how they work does have an impact going forward. You can learn from Google’s projects, the ‘building blocks’ of their HR system, to gain a deeper understanding of what success looks like in your business – with the added bonus that this people-led strategy will boost employee engagement at the same time.