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Google Inc.’s Measuring and Retaining Talent Essay

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Updated: Jul 7th, 2021

Introduction

The concept of talent management has gained much attention since it incorporates a variety of processes necessary for measuring, identifying, and retaining the skills that employers expect from employees. In the context of the evolving business industry, the ability to single out essential features and evaluate whether one has these features has become a crucial element of hiring and working processes (Schiemann, 2014). Scholars note that talented employees are not sufficient to arrange successful talent management development within the industry. Thunnissen (2016) remarks that there are at least two constituents responsible for talent management: the gifted employee and the organisation. Because these actors have different perceptions of talent management, it is important to reach a unified understanding of each particular case. Team development is also a decisive element in this process (Balzac, 2014). Emerging issues in talent management include employee retention, uncertainty management, and strategic job investments (Cappelli & Keller, 2014). The present paper offers an overview of the theoretical background of talent management. Further, the analysis of issues that Google faces in connection with talent management techniques is performed. Finally, recommendations are given on the improvement of current approaches.

Theoretical Background

Measuring Talent

Measuring talent is one of the most complicated tasks in organisational psychology. The problem is that a conclusion about an employee’s performance is contingent on the measures used for the assessment (Sutton, 2015). Another difficulty is that it is not always possible to define clearly who should evaluate one’s performance: the manager, colleagues, or clients (Sutton, 2015). Still, measuring the talent of people already working for an organisation is relatively simple compared to that of an applicant. Usually, there is too little time during the recruitment process to adequately measure one’s talent. As a result, a person who could benefit the company may not be hired, and vice versa: a firm may employ a worker who will not prove to add any value to performance. Moreover, Nijs, Gallardo-Gallardo, Dries, and Sels (2014) argue that it is not sufficient to measure one’s talent only in the given position. Scholars deem it necessary to perform the analysis of an employee’s potential in larger roles.

To make the process of talent measurement simpler, such methods as talent assessment and talent performance may be used (Griffiths & Washington, 2015). Starr-Glass (2017) emphasises that organisations should acknowledge talent as a “living and vital asset” that is constantly evolving (p. 50). Sutton (2015) singles out several competencies to be considered when assessing one’s talent. They incorporate, among others, the abilities to lead, analyse, perform, interact, organise, execute, conceptualise, support, and cooperate. Ribeiro and Gomes (2017) note that measuring talent is crucial for the organisations’ success since talent is an exceptional source of their competitive advantage. The main psychological measurements of talent are validity and reliability (Sutton, 2015).

Identifying Talent

The identification of the necessary qualities is another difficult yet highly important task. The most popular types of determining talent are interviews, references, psychometrics, application forms, ability and personality tests, biodata, assessment centres, and work samples (Sutton, 2015). While each of these approaches allows finding out important information about the applicant’s abilities, they are not void of limitations. For instance, Sutton (2015) remarks that the most popular employee selection method, an interview, may have a high degree of subjectivity due to a variety of biases. These biases include the halo/horns effect, stereotypes, the attribution bias, and others. At the same time, psychological research that has been performed over decades made it possible to increase the reliability and validity of interview results (Sutton,2015).

Scholars also note that it is crucial to include so-called passive applicants in the process of talent identification. Aamodt (2016) remarks that there is a need to identify the “hidden talent,” which means that one should look beyond those individuals that are actively looking for a job (p. 132). That way, a recruiter can identify talent in potential employees and persuade them to apply for a position with their organisation. Apart from that, as Ellis and Bauer (2017) conclude, companies also should pay attention to the phase immediately following talent identification, which is helping the new employee to “get onboard” quickly (p. 161).

Developing/Retaining Talent

The third significant component of talent management is the development and retention of talent. Sutton (2015) notes that in order to keep talented employees, organisations need to create a “psychological contract” with their workers (p. 53). The more satisfied one is at the workplace, the more likely it is that he or she will not feel inclined to leave the place (Ibidunni, Osibanjo, Adeniji, Salau, & Falola, 2016). Love and Singh single out the following features promoting talent retention: inspirited leadership, an effective strategic plan, open communication between the employer and employees, sufficient training options, benefits (as cited in Sutton, 2015, p. 53). Also, a physical workplace and concentration on corporate citizenship occupy an important place in the process of retention.

Zhang and Stewart (2017) acknowledge the significance of retention in the contemporary business world that is known for high turnover rates. Scholars identify several vital strategies that can promote employee retention. These methods include employer branding, organisational attractiveness, talent engagement, leadership style, financial rewards, learning opportunities, and corporate culture (Zhang & Stewart, 2017). Thus, having reviewed several relevant sources on talent retention, it is possible to conclude that companies have to provide their employees with a positive environment and sufficient incentives to avoid high turnover rates.

The Problems or Issues Faced by Google

Types of Challenges in Talent Management

Based on the provided case study and scholarly sources focused on talent management, it is possible to analyse the challenges faced by Google in relation to this sphere. First of all, it is necessary to classify the potential difficulties in talent management. Tafti, Mahmoudsalehi, and Amiri (2017) have singled out four major types of obstacles in this sphere. These problems are divided into structural, environmental, behavioural, and managerial (Tafti et al., 2017). Structural issues may include the lack of integration in the HR system, poor organisational strategy model, the lack of a successful talent management approach and performance management system, or insufficient motivation. Environmental aspects involve restricted access to international markets, unstable management, a saturation of the population and labour market, and the absence of meaningful rivals (Tafti et al., 2017). Behavioural challenges are concerned with cultural issues, unwillingness to change, sexual discrimination, and cognitive biases. Finally, managerial problems involve nepotism, the lack of commitment, the lack of a unified view on talent management, and insufficient perception of the importance of talent management (Tafti et al., 2017).

Problems Faced by Google

Taking the classification given by Tafti et al. (2017), it is viable to conclude that Google’s issues pertaining to talent management are largely concerned with structural, behavioural, and managerial segments. First of all, Google suffers from an unclear system of talent identification. The company uses interviews as the main basis for recruitment. The initial approach presupposed asking the interviewees to answer brainteaser-type questions or solve puzzles that are aimed at developing creative solutions (Sutton, 2015). However, this system proved to be ineffective since those employees who passed this stage successfully did not tend to perform well after becoming employed. Still, modern methods of recruitment also lack efficiency, resulting in hiring people who are likely to quit the company within a short period of time.

The problem with the modern process of selecting employees is that it is composed of three stages, each of which involves different people. These phases are a conversation with a recruiter, a phone interview, and an onsite interview (Sutton, 2015). The major challenge seems to be in the criteria that are used for candidates’ assessment: leadership, role-related knowledge, problem-solving skills, and “Googleyness” (Sutton, 2015). While these requirements are highly important, they do not seem sufficient. In particular, as argued by Nijs et al. (2014), an emphasis should be made on analysing the candidate’s skills in spheres other than the one to which they are applying initially. In this respect, Google’s talent assessment is not effective enough. The company loses an opportunity to identify the prospective employees’ qualities which could be useful in other areas.

The Effectiveness of Addressing the Issues

Evidence from the case study suggests that some of the identified problems have been addressed whereas others have not been resolved yet. First of all, the company gave up the idea of asking brainteaser-type questions since they did not prove to be a relevant indicator of talent (Sutton, 2015). Secondly, Google started paying more attention to organisational culture. The company offers an educational programme for its employees where they are instructed on Google’s mission. Also, workers are encouraged to express their opinions and ask senior executives to explain the aspects of work they fail to understand (Sutton, 2015). Finally, the organisation has introduced more perks and bonuses for its employees.

However, it is not possible to conclude that all of the problems have received sufficient resolutions. In particular, many employees still tend to quit despite all the talent retention efforts made by Google. Some critics note that by giving its workers numerous options at work, the company encourages them to spend less time at home by spending more hours working (Sutton, 2015). Also, it has been noted that the money donated on perks is actually less than Google would have spent on increasing the employees’ salary. Finally, it is necessary to point out that Google has failed to address the problem of turnover due to its anti-poaching agreements with other corporations (Sutton, 2015). As a result of insufficient resolutions of the mentioned problems, the company has a rather short tenure of only over a year. Thus, it is obvious that current retention strategies are not enough to keep the organisation’s turnover level low.

Recommendations

Based on the critical evaluation, it is relevant to make some suggestions that may help Google to avoid the existing problems. First of all, it is crucial to overcome the problem concerned with long working hours, which has an impact on employee retention. As the case study reveals, employees tend to spend ten-twelve hours a day at work (Sutton, 2015). Even though people are allowed to work on something unrelated to their official duties one day a week, long hours have a negative effect on workers personal lives and their relationships with families. Thus, the first recommendation is to promote a healthy work-life balance for the organisation’s employees. Shockley, Smith, and Knudsen (2017) define work-life balance as “multiple role management” (p. 513). Employees who cannot divide their attention equally among each of the roles do not feel satisfied in any of the dimensions. Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the number of time Google’s employees are spending at work, no matter how exciting the perks offered in the office are.

Another recommendation is to introduce more opportunities for creativity at work. Although Google is known for being technically savvy and innovative, it should also allow employees to express their ideas freely. Mendonça, da Silva Veiga, and Macambira (2017) emphasise the close connection between work context and one’s creative performance. Since talent management involves identifying the most beneficial skills of workers, giving them a chance to express themselves freely will promote the generation of innovative processes and projects. A good point in the existing organisational culture is that each team member can voice their opinions and thoughts (Sutton, 2015). However, the company would benefit more if its people had some space for developing some new creative options.

One more suggestion for Google is to review current employee motivation approaches. In organisational psychology, work engagement is viewed as one of the core constituents of positive corporate behaviour (Fátima Oliveira, Ferreira, & Ribeiro, 2017). Although Google is at the top of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, the level of turnover is rather high (Sutton, 2015). Therefore, it is necessary to analyse what is lacking in the sphere of motivation and remove existing barriers. In particular, the company should detect what types of motivation are prevalent in employees. Scholars distinguish between such psychological variances of motivation theories as reinforcement, Maslow’s needs, expectancy-value, and goal setting (Van den Broeck, Carpini, Leroy, & Diefendorff, 2017). Google needs not only to create a financially positive environment for its employees but also to establish the necessary level of internal and external motivators that will promote people’s loyalty and dedication.

The last recommendation concerns talent identification approaches favoured by the company. The existing method of predicting employees’ abilities does not always prove to be effective. Google may try to employ serious games to select and develop talent. This approach, suggested by Fetzer (2015), is reported to have a positive effect on reaching different business goals. Fetzer (2015) remarks that simulations, which are one of the most relevant types of serious games, both have the likelihood to predict applicants’ on-the-job performance and can promote the organisation’s brand awareness. Thus, Google should add serious games in its talent identification and measurement procedures.

Potential Benefits or Drawbacks

The given recommendations are expected to bring about a number of advantages for the company. First of all, effective methods of talent identification will reduce costs on hiring people who are not interested in staying with Google for a long time. If an applicant’s likelihood of being dedicated is measured at the initial phase of collaboration, the organisation will be able to eliminate the number of unreliable employees. Secondly, it is expected that the retention rate will increase if workers are appropriately motivated. Since moral and mental satisfaction from work is not less significant than financial profit, gaining a work-life balance will promote people’s loyalty. Currently, no drawbacks are expected to appear as a result of recommendations.

The Effectiveness of Recommendations in Other Organisations

The suggested options are likely to be effective in other companies. In all spheres of work, motivation is necessary, so increased attention to employee engagement will be beneficial for any organisation. Also, the recommendation on using serious games and simulations at the hiring stage is rather helpful for any kind of industry. Finally, talent retention is the quality that any business is trying to prosper in, so using these approaches will promote keeping gifted people in their positions.

Conclusion

A careful inspection of the case study, along with the analysis of psychological literature, allows making several conclusions. First of all, talent management is acknowledged as a highly important aspect of any organisation’s successful work. Without identifying the most suitable qualities expected of applicants, an HR specialist cannot hire the best employees. As a result, both the worker and company will suffer, which may lead either to a decrease in productivity or to the employee’s dissatisfaction. At Google, much attention is paid to talent identification: even at the initial interviewing stage, people are expected to reveal their best qualities. However, the case study indicates that talent measurement has some drawbacks since, despite all the efforts, there is a high turnover in the organisation.

Thus, some recommendations have been given that aim at increasing the retention of talented workers at Google. The main issue identified is the need to reach an optimal work-life balance. Another viable solution is analysing employees’ motivation and increasing their engagement. Finally, the inclusion of serious games in the process of talent identification is a highly prospective option. By taking into consideration these options, Google will increase the likelihood of hiring the most suitable people and keeping them in the company.

References

Aamodt, M. (2016). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Balzac, S. R. (2014). Organizational psychology for managers. New York, NY: Springer.

Cappelli, P., & Keller, J. K. (2014). Talent management: Conceptual approaches and practical challenges. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 1(1), 305-331.

Ellis, A. M., & Bauer, T. N. (2017). How do we get new entrants ‘on board’? Organizational socialization, psychological contracts, and realistic job previews. In N. Chmiel, F. Fraccaroli, & M. Sverke (Eds.), An introduction to work and organizational psychology: An international perspective (3rd ed.) (pp. 161-175). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

Fátima Oliveira, Á., Ferreira, M. C., & Ribeiro, L. P. F. (2017). Work engagement. In E. R. Neiva, Vaz Torres, C., & H. Mendonça (Eds.), Organizational psychology and evidence-based management: What science says about practice (pp. 63-80). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Fetzer, M. (2015). Serious games for talent selection and development. TIP: The Industrial Organizational Psychologist, 52, 117-125.

Griffiths, B., & Washington, E. (2015). Competencies at work: Providing a common language for talent management. New York, NY: Business Expert Press.

Ibidunni, S., Osibanjo, O., Adeniji, A., Salau, O. P., & Falola, H. (2016). Talent retention and organizational performance: A competitive positioning in Nigerian banking sector. Periodica Polytechnica Social and Management Sciences, 24(1), 1-13.

Mendonça, H., da Silva Veiga, H. M., & Macambira, M. (2017). Creativity at work: Trends and perspectives. In E. R. Neiva, Vaz Torres, C., & H. Mendonça (Eds.), Organizational psychology and evidence-based management: What science says about practice (pp. 23-43). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Nijs, S., Gallardo-Gallardo, E., Dries, N., & Sels, L. (2014). A multidisciplinary review into the definition, operationalization, and measurement of talent. Journal of World Business, 49(2), 180-191.

Ribeiro, J. L., & Gomes, D. (2017). What is talent management? The perception from international human resources management students. In C. Machado (Ed.), Competencies and (global) talent management (pp. 73-94). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Schiemann, W. A. (2014). From talent management to talent optimization. Journal of World Business, 49(2), 281-288.

Shockley, K. M., Smith, C. R., & Knudsen, E. A. (2017). The impact of work-life balance on employee retention. In H. W. Goldstein, E. D. Pulakos, J. Passmore, & C. Semedo (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell handbook of the psychology of recruitment, selection and employee retention (pp. 513-543). Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Starr-Glass, D. (2017). Organizational propensities to share: Revisiting talent mobilization and redistribution in multinational corporations. In C. Machado (Ed.), Competencies and (global) talent management (pp. 49-71). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Sutton, A. (2015). Work psychology in action. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tafti, M. M., Mahmoudsalehi, M., & Amiri, M. (2017). Critical success factors, challenges and obstacles in talent management. Industrial and Commercial Training, 49(1), 15-21.

Thunnissen, M. (2016). Talent management: For what, how and how well? An empirical exploration of talent management in practice. Employee Relations, 38(1), 57-72.

Van den Broeck, A., Carpini, J., Leroy, H., & Diefendorff, J. M. (2017). How much effort will I put into my work? It depends on your type of motivation. In N. Chmiel, F. Fraccaroli, & M. Sverke (Eds.), An introduction to work and organizational psychology: An international perspective (3rd ed.) (pp. 354-372). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

Zhang, C., & Stewart, J. (2017). Talent management and retention. In H. W. Goldstein, E. D. Pulakos, J. Passmore, & C. Semedo (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell handbook of the psychology of recruitment, selection and employee retention (pp. 473-493). Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

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