Google is revolutionising HR with big data

Using data isn’t enough to claim superiority – businesses need to translate that information into actionable results. Over the past several years, Google – with tens of thousands of employees – has worked to integrate big data solutions into its human resources department, and as a result, retention has improved 35%1.  How did they do it?

Retention Algorithms

Using data science, the company was able to identify which of its employees were more likely to leave than others. As it turns out, those who are thinking of leaving end up displaying certain predictable behaviours. By identifying potential risks, Google was able to reduce its attrition rate.

A different way of thinking

Google changed the name its of human resources department to ‘people operations’. It’s only a name-change, but it reflects a different way of thinking in the business – that data is the key to achieving insight with regard to people. This is evidenced through the motto of the people operations team, spoken by one of the team’s managers, Kathryn Dekas, “all people decisions at Google are based on data and analytics”.2

Project Oxygen

Over a year, the Project Oxygen team at Google studied managers, what they do, how they do it, and in particular, company data like performance appraisals. They came up with multiple observations and identified eight key characteristics:

  1. Be a good coach.
  2. Empower; don’t micromanage.
  3. Be interested in direct reports, success and well-being.
  4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.
  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.
  6. Help your employees with career development.
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  8. Have key technical skills so you can advise the team.

They also found some characteristics of the worst managers. As a result, the team found Google employees wanted one-on-one meetings – so they happened more often. As a result of the project, manager satisfaction improved by 75%.

Fixing the interview process

Google became well known over several years for its interview process, which required multiple rounds. But the people operations team studied the returns and found after four interviews, the best candidates tend to drop away. So the number of interviews was brought back – and the hiring process became much quicker, leading to more dedicated employees who are willing to stick around longer.
1 Jobscience, ‘5 Ways Google Is Reinventing HR with Data’, 2013
2 idem