Grandpaw and Google had a lot in common

George O Nokes, Snr with Baby Jack Nokes
George O Nokes, Snr with Baby Jack Nokes

By Jack Nokes

My grandfather never made it past 8th grade, he never worked in an office, and he died well before the Information Age took off. However, his lack of formal education didn’t mean he lacked the wisdom necessary to run a good operation. PawPaw’s philosophy on getting a job done was: hire the right feller to do the job, tell him what to do, give him the right tools to do the job, and get the hell out of the way so he can get to work.”

I kind of doubt that PawPaw would have gotten much about the high-tech world. However, I think he would have understood why Google consistently ranks at the top of the best companies to work for in America.

Recently two representatives of Google’s Austin, Texas office presented at a Greenlights “Advancement Academy” put on by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Part of the talk described the informal dress, pet-friendly offices, catered breakfasts and lunches for employees, flexible hours, game rooms, and such amenities as a pure oxygen pod for a periodic pick-me-up. All of that was intriguing, but the more interesting part of the talk described an organisation that is highly intentional, fanatically disciplined and passionate about creating a culture that puts a high value on innovation, productivity, accountability, and employee satisfaction.

Hire the right feller

Just like my grandfather, Google emphasises finding the right person to do the job. When vetting prospective employees, the typical process involves 2 phone interviews and 4-5 in-person interviews. More importantly, they hire for potential, not just for the current job responsibilities.

Fitting in with the Google culture is also a priority … they flatly state that they don’t hire incompetent people. I imagine that my grandpa – a resourceful man and a keen judge of people, skills honed during the Great Depression – would have possessed the same values when looking for hired help.

Tell him what to do

Today we call it “orientation” or “setting expectations,” whereas PawPaw probably called it “telling a feller what to do.” Google’s “onboarding” practices take new recruits through a rigorous process of getting up to speed:

  • Each new employee is assigned a mentor who helps them get settled
  • New recruits meet with each member of the working group/team
  • After a thorough 2-day orientation, the third day is a walk-through of a detailed ramping up plan

Give him the right tools

Out in the oil fields, PawPaw always had the right set of tools: a hard hat, some good boots, a wrench set, a full tool box, a post hole digger, and ample baling wire. Google also makes sure employees have the right tools (skills) to do the job. After three months on the job, each Google employee writes up a Personal Development Plan. This plan includes:

  • A skills assessment evaluation
  • Identification and evaluation of targeted training programs to enhance the employee’s skill  set

Know when to get the hell out-of-the-way

Managers continually evaluate employees through weekly check-ins (“real time feedback”) and scheduled monthly check-in meetings. Managers are taught to know when to intervene vs. when to get out-of-the-way of their charges. Employees know that they will be held accountable to meet their goals but are generally given a lot of latitude to get the job done. There are also regularly scheduled formal evaluations every six months.

If you are a manager in a cause-based organisation, ask if you have recently taken a hard look at your hiring, orientation, and evaluation practices. Since Google is such a great place to work, I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that they:

  • go to great lengths to hire people who are a good fit for the job and the company culture
  • rigorously orient and train new hires
  • invest in training to enhance employee skills
  • give continual feedback through informal and regular evaluations
  • set clear expectations and hold people accountable to get the job done
  • are fanatically disciplined in doing all the above

How does this compare to your organisation’s practice? As my grandpaw might have said: “It won’t hurt to look under the hood now and again to make sure everything is still working right.”

About the Author – Our thanks to Jack Nokes. This post was originally published on Greenlights’ blog. If you would like to submit a guest post go here

For information about how Cause and Effective can help with your hiring, orientation and evaluation practices visit

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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