I do not recreate by watching YouTube or reading Wikipedia entries, so perhaps I am the only person who is surprised about Google.  This edition of Vanessa’s Views began by researching a simple question:  what makes a business a good place to work?  It was deep into my reading that I discovered Google.  Folks, Google has UNLIMITED sick leave.  This concept basically short circuits my brain.  Then, I read on.  Google has legal aid (ahem).  Google has dentists, doctors, dry cleaners, and oil changes all on site.  Imagine if you will, not having to power walk to your car at 5 p.m. because the dry cleaner closes at 6 p.m.  Sigh.  Google also offers ridiculously generous tuition reimbursements; but if you would rather start small and just want to learn . . . oh say, Mandarin, you can do that at work too.

In my view, all of this is rainbows … unicorns … fireworks of confetti … basically stunning wrapping paper with a ginormous shiny silver bow … all of which conceals the core: the business itself.  Google is a great place to work for the same reasons all good employers, big and small, are great places to work.  Generally, these places tend to prioritize, in some form or fashion, four principal concepts:  (1) empowerment, (2) trust, (3) fairness, and (4) esprit de corps.

Empowerment  comes with treating employees like responsible adults who know their business.  It’s the trust you place in your employees to do their jobs right – without micromanaging.  It comes with providing challenging work that keeps employees interested, develops their skills, and uses their knowledge.  Help your employees grow:  with mentoring and training, with stipends for continuing education, or with the flexibility to allow for non-traditional career paths.  In short, when you provide your employees with meaningful work in a setting where they know where they stand in achieving the company mission, you are providing empowerment.

Trust  needs to be developed from the other direction, as well.  Employees need to know they can trust management.  Building trust can be a matter of sharing information.  Open communication with your employees, just as in your personal day-to-day relationships, is how you build trust.  If you can, allow your employees a say in how your business operates.  I’m not suggesting that you abdicate to the masses, but I am saying that listening to ideas from your employees, digesting them, and then implementing the sound ones is a trust building endeavor.  Finally, build trust with your employees by being a good citizen of your community and of the world.  Do good deeds together, and reap the reward of a stronger relationship.

Fairness  is a multi-faceted trait of a great place to work.  It comes with offering competitive pay and benefits.  It comes with recognizing that your employees have a work-life balance to achieve and helping them do it.  Perhaps you have generous leave policies, or you trust that your employees will get their job done when they want to take off for an hour to do reading time for their child’s class.  Fairness is also reflected in recognizing and rewarding excellence.  Nothing is quite so infuriating (and loyalty busting) as watching the mediocre get rewarded with praise or bonuses the same as the star employee.  The fair employer also uses mistakes as opportunities to grow, where possible.

Esprit de Corps  at my firm, for example, has been reduced to a concept called “No Jerks.”  At Google, it’s called “Googleyness.”  You want to build the right culture for your business, and then, hire people who are a good fit for your culture.  Great people are going to be different for every business.  Build camaraderie through teamwork across departments, through fun activities, or through sharing time in non-work settings.  If you like the people you work with, you’re going to like going to work that much more.

It doesn’t take fancy packaging or even a lot of money to be a great place to work.  But, it does take trust and fairness.  It also takes empowerment and that right esprit de corps.  In my view, we can all be Googley – just in our own special ways.  I would love to hear more about how Googley your place of work is.

Vanessa Towarnicky's primary focus is in the area of labor and employment law. She has been involved in representing clients in various employment cases, including sexual harassment; deliberate intent; age, race, and disability discrimination; wrongful discharge; and various other employment-related torts. She is admitted to various state and federal courts as well as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
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