How Google, Facebook and Twitter treat their staff

Madison Reidy/FAIRFAX NZ

Humankind managing director Samantha Gadd said she was inspired by the employee experience Silicon Valleys trendiest technology companies offered.

Google employees can take a break on a rooftop garden or in a meditation studio, but a Kiwi visitor found there is more than meets the eye for staff at the United States' trendiest technology companies.

New Zealand human resources agency Humankind managing director Samantha Gadd visited Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn​ and Uber​ in San Francisco's Silicon Valley hub this month to find out how they attract and keep world class talent.

While New Zealand businesses would struggle to afford Google work perks of an in-house gym or hair salon, Gadd said they could aspire to recreate its employee experience.

Humankind managing director Samantha Gadd planned her own human resources tour of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter ...
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Humankind managing director Samantha Gadd planned her own human resources tour of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Uber.

"All of the perks are there to take the hassle out of the day so of course it is good for business, they get more brain-space."

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Gadd said when she asked employees at each of the companies she visited why they enjoyed working where they did, their answer always boiled down to colleagues and because they felt their job made a positive difference.

Google employees can take a break in its in-house meditation studio.
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Google employees can take a break in its in-house meditation studio.

She said the companies made the business' purpose explicitly obvious to new employees from day dot.

"A lot of people have a vision and they have got a mission or a strategy of what they want to achieve. But, there is still not that many businesses that have really nailed the 'why' of what they are doing, why they are getting out of bed and why people would care."

But the competition for jobs at Silicon Valleys most galvanising companies was immense, Gadd said. 

Google employees were encouraged to create their own posters and stick them to the office walls, Gadd said.
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Google employees were encouraged to create their own posters and stick them to the office walls, Gadd said.

Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn​ and Uber​ required all candidates to have up to eight face-to-face interviews before they were offered a job, she said. 

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Gadd said the talent shortage in New Zealands technology industry meant employers here had fewer candidates for roles so would not put them through such a rigorous hiring process. 

Although, we could copy their peer-approval process, she said. 

Gadd said most of the interviews were led by other employees with managers only meeting candidates in the final stage of recruitment. 

"That is a way that helps them to hire amazing people … I do not think that is just an American thing."

Gadd said New Zealand companies did not walk the talk for staff diversity and inclusion like the Silicon Valley companies did.

Twitter had internal support groups for African American and homosexual employees, she said. 

Gadd said New Zealand businesses paid "a little bit of lip service" to acceptance in the workplace.

She said having thousands of employees and multi billion-dollar revenue did make it easier for companies to group staff by interest.

But, New Zealand companies could be more inclusive if they designed a variety of working areas in their office that accommodated the different ways people worked best, Gadd said.

"I do not think we think about the importance of our workspaces as a contributor to culture. We just leave it to chance."

Office spaces designed with employees in mind helped to retain staff, she said. 

She said New Zealand businesses would also benefit from adopting Silicon Valleys transparent and trustworthy mindset. 

Most of the companies she visited hosted fortnightly meetings where any employee could ask the chief executive a question, Gadd said. 

"I think there are heaps of New Zealand businesses that are too scared. They do not tell their employees things, they hide the numbers, they make big decisions without talking to people." 

Gadd said she wanted to share her learnings with New Zealand companies so they too could create the best workplaces in the world.

 

 - Sunday Star Times

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