(Note: E+S is a great place
to work; I love my job, and the 'experience stories' that I continue to accumulate there inspire almost everyone I meet to say "You have the coolest job." I agree. This post is more about "If I were a programming
genius..." and the role of stories in creating corporate mythology)
I want to work at Google. Unfortunately, I'm not an engineer and have limited left-brain skills, and Google (understandably) has little use for us right-brain types. Until they start GoogleStories, I'll have to envy those who have incredible mathematical and programming skills. The envy doesn't come from reading the list of benefits, impressive though they are; it comes from reading all the stories about the employee experience.
An article in the NY Times talks about Google's transportation system - given its scope and size, it really is a system - offering free rides to and from the Googleplex in Mountain View. With wi-fi. The free shuttle, which runs more frequently than most buses, has become a deciding factor for numerous employees. Whether it's one of those perks within the culture that, if you take advantage of it, you're supposed to work during your two-hour commute, I'm not sure. (Those perks-with-a-subtext suck; they're the benefit equivalent of a backhanded compliment.)
What impresses me again and again about Google as a company is that they not only innovate on the Web (continually), but they use that innovation to create an extraordinary workplace to attract the best talent. In Blue Ocean Strategy terms, they are waaaaaaay into the blue. They are so extraordinary that Microsoft and Yahoo! can't compete.
Granted, a company that is so enormously successful can afford perks like an on-site massage therapist and a $500 "take out" allowance for new parents, so they don't have to cook. But Google knows, as the best companies do, that creating a fun and inspiring working culture a) gets you the top people, and b) helps you keep them. (That's why they're the #1 company to work for in the United States).
Few people would argue with any of Google's benefits, but smaller companies can take a lesson here: Find out what's important to your employees and do what you can to make that aspect of your corporate culture extraordinary.
Google's story now not only includes their mission to organize the world's information, but also its corporate culture. At the risk of stating the obvious, the latter allows it to be the best in the world at the former. And, intentionally or not, because articles like the Times one focus on the employee experience, the attention Google gets for its culture probably does more for recruiting than anything else. Through these articles, Googlers tell their stories, their experiences, which are much more powerful than a list of benefits, no matter how impressive. These stories work as a recruiting tool because readers - potential Google employees or not - can put themselves in the story and think, for example, how great it would be not to have to drive to work, or they can vicariously experience a midday massage (my personal favourite)...or whichever of the benefits resonates the most deeply with the individual.