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What You Can Take Out of Google's People Strategy for Your Small Business

By Grace Lu - June 28, 2017

Businesses are quick to reward strong financial performance, but often fail to make the same investments in human capital. As a strategy analyst, I’ve found that while strategy should be backed by strong financials, it is even more heavily driven by the people.

Having recently started at SME Strategy, I am given the opportunity to “strategize” about my personal development. I have the freedom to reading business news, do research for articles that interest me, and go on coffee chats.. Therefore, I feel excited coming to work to see what new things I can generate, and ultimately my work goes back to helping the business. I came to realize that this is the positive culture that many smaller businesses struggle to achieve.

If your business would benefit from innovation, new ideas, and happy employees, and there’s no plan in place for how to achieve these things, maybe it’s time for you to rethink your people strategy. One key policy to implement is to encourage your employees to try (and fail on) their own side projects.

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Google’s infamous 20% time policy, in which employees can work on whatever they wish for a fifth of their time at work, has faced its share of criticism and speculation over the years. Critics point out that such a policy promotes distraction, loss of employees who create their own ventures, or spend the extra time being unproductive. The main reason such a strategy barely exists at Google is that innovation and testing is already written into their vision and job descriptions. Allocating time to do so randomly just didn’t make sense anymore. However, parts of Google’s people strategy might work great with smaller companies that are struggling with engagement and work culture.

TargetProcess is a project management company that chose to implement the 20% time at work to great success. They found that their employees were bored at work, leading to poor engagement, productivity, and lack of innovation. However, this policy isn’t fit for everyone. Other ideas to allow for trial and error among employees include allow your employees to work with other departments they’re interested in; and encourage employees to create events or learning workshops based on their interests

The reason these initiatives work:

  1. There are very few inspired employees in an organization, attracting and retaining more of them is integral no matter the size of the business.
  2. Companies are very prone to focusing only on financial performance when their people are the biggest impact to that performance.
  3. Unengaged employees waste approximately 20% of their time or more due to lost productivity or distractions. Giving the time to develop things beneficial for themselves and their jobs is like “slacking off productively”.
  4. Many employees feel like there are skills that they want to learn but don’t have time because they’re exhausted by the demands of their current tasks

By creating a team culture that prides its people over its financials, you’ll attract talent that can think outside of the box. Businesses that invest in learning often get more ideas, challenge themselves openly, and want to try new things. For companies that are growing and scaling quickly, keeping the company vision and culture as a central focus is both challenging and critical. However, by creating a culture where people can innovate freely.




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