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Google Inc.’s Work and Organisational Psychology Essay

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Updated: Jul 7th, 2021

Theoretical Background

One of the most notable aspects of post-industrial living is that, as time goes on, more and more organisations tend to place an increasingly heavier emphasis on taking full advantage of “human capital” at their disposal. The reason for this is apparent: as practice indicates, doing it is the key to ensuring that these organisations are able to address competitive challenges. In its turn, managing “human capital” is primarily concerned with the deployment of a circumstantially appropriate strategy to identify talented employees and provide them with the opportunity to attain self-actualisation in the workplace settings.

This, however, poses much of a challenge itself. After all, there is no universally accepted definition as to what the notion of talent stands for. Moreover, it represents a common assumption that there is a strongly defined inborn quality to one’s endowment with a particular talent. As a result, identifying and measuring the objective characteristics of the latter has never been an easy task. To add even more complexity to the issue in question, the methodological framework of psychology has traditionally been considered highly speculative: hence, the difficulty of providing a fully objective assessment of one’s mental capacities/inclinations. As Sutton noted, “A central issue for psychology is how we can accurately measure the variables we are interested in” (2015, p. 24). While being aware of the outlined obstacles in the way of identifying/measuring talent in employees, psychologists were nevertheless able to work out a methodological matrix to tackle the task.

In its bare essence, it can be described as consisting of the two sub-sequential phases: “identification” and “measurement”. The first of these phases is primarily concerned with collecting the data of relevance. The sought out data is supposed to provide HR managers with in-depth insights into the workings of the employee’s psyche: the main precondition for the former to be able to identify core competencies in the person and measure the varying extent of his or her emotional/cognitive comfortableness with a particular set of professional responsibilities. The “measurement” phase involves the quantification and sub-sequential interpretation of the acquired analytical insights into the subject matter. Throughout the process’s entirety, psychologists/managers are expected to make sure that the “validity” and “reliability” principles of conducting qualitative research never cease being thoroughly observed. The first of them refers to ensuring the discursive consistency of the measurement’s results. The second principle is concerned with the establishment of the objective requisites for the measurement process to be methodologically sound (Lecture 13).

As it was implied earlier, there is much interpretational vagueness to the very notion of talent. Nevertheless, once assessed from the perspective of organisational psychology, it will appear to be synonymous with the notion of competence. Because of the well-known specifics of the contemporary workplace environment, HR managers were able to conceptualise the most important of the professionally valuable competencies in a person. There are eight of them: one’s ability to make executive decisions/lead others, one’s ability to function as an integral part of the team, one’s ability to indulge in the dialectical (cause-effect) reasoning, one’s cognitive compatibility with the creative type of thinking, one’s understanding of the highly systemic aspects of just about any organisation’s functioning, one’s ability to adapt to a change, and the high extent of one’s professional commitment (Lecture 15).

Although there are nowadays a number of approaches to collecting the data, with respect to the varying measure of professional “talentedness” in an individual, the most popular of them have traditionally been concerned with interviewing the person and identifying different subtleties of his or her psychometric/psychological makeup (Lecture 14). The foremost challenge, in this regard, is reducing down to a minimum the elements of perceptual bias, within the context of how psychologists and HR managers go about subjecting employees to a psychometric inquiry.

Even though there have been conceptualised many different strategies to deal with this particular challenge, ensuring the complete non-biasness of the talent-evaluation techniques often proves impossible. What impedes the effectiveness of psychological assessments of one’s work-related talents even further is that these assessments are essentially observational, “Competencies need to be based on behavioural indicators – that is, on observable behaviours that indicate certain levels of performance” (Sutton, 2015, p. 23). As it will be shown later in this paper, however, there is no good reason to assume that the observable aspects of how a person reacts to the externally applied stimuli are indeed reflective of his or her psychological phenotype.

Talent Management at Google Inc.

Being commonly referred to as the “world’s best workplace”, Google Inc. does apply much effort in selecting the best out of those who apply to get a job with the company. In particular, Google seeks out the individuals capable of addressing their professional responsibilities in an unsupervised mode, as well as for those who are intellectually flexible enough to see what account for the innovative/unconventional approaches to solving organisational problems within the range of their professional specialisation (Sutton, 2015). Google also makes a point in hiring only those individuals who do have what it takes to be emotionally comfortable with each other and the company’s corporate culture (Gobble, 2017).

As a part of advancing its organisational agenda, in this respect, Google requires potential candidates to undergo a series of interviews with recruiters and to take a number of psychometric tests. The actual purpose of this selection procedure is to serve as the instrument of gaining a clue into what are going to be the qualitative aspects of the tested applicant’s perception of the surrounding corporate reality and its place in it. The main focus here is to tell whether the tested candidate for a particular job will be likely to derive emotional pleasure from interacting with his or her co-workers and from acting in a professionally committed manner. As it appears from the case study, there are four criteria for assessing applicants’ eligibility to get a job with Google: one’s possession of strong leadership skills, ability to think systemically, efficiency in solving different problems, and “Googleyness” (ability to derive emotional pleasure from communicating with co-workers).

The strategy that Google currently deploys for retaining talented employees is reflective of the transformational theory of motivation/leadership. This theory is based on the assumption that, for an individual to be able to excel as a hired employee, he or she must perceive the scope of its professional responsibilities as the actual pathway towards achieving self-actualisation. In its turn, this presupposes that a job applicant must be genuinely interested in contributing to the company’s overall well-being as something inseparable from advancing its own existential agenda, on his or her part (Gilbert, Horsman & Kelloway, 2016). According to the company’s top managers, this is supposed to ensure the ethical integrity of employees’ professional conduct, as well as to increase the objective value of their workplace performance. In this regard, the company provides its employees with an extensive scope of corporate benefits, “Employees can enjoy free meals at the cafeterias, snacks and drinks near their offices, free use of the gym, game rooms and on-site medical staff” (Sutton, 2015, p. 50).

At first glance, it may appear that Google’s talent management strategy does deserve to be regarded as thoroughly effective. Nevertheless, there is a good reason to think that the strategy’s beneficiary effects are exaggerated, to say the least. The validity of this statement can be illustrated with respect to the public scandals that the company’s functioning had triggered throughout the last decade: something strongly inconsistent with Google’s formal commitment to selecting/retaining the employees that are intrinsically motivated to deal with organisational challenges in an ethically sound manner. The most recent of them were concerned with the revealed existence of anti-poaching agreements between Google and other IT companies and with the fact that, as the Media reported in 2017, the company used to resort to the fraudulent means of generating income, such as charging advertisers for the clicks that never took place (Baron, 2017). The company has also been sued on account of its managers’ tendency to prefer hiring foreigners (as software designers) at the expense of denying employment opportunities to the highly trained native-born applicants (Moore, 2016).

Nevertheless, the foremost indication that the company’s talent management strategy is rather ineffective is the extremely high turnover rate among its employees, “median tenure at Google is just over one year” (Sutton, 2015, p. 53). This implies that Google’s approach to selecting/retaining talented employees is not as workable as the company’s top officials would like everybody to believe. Moreover, it also spells a certain doubt on the validity of the psychological conceptualisation of talent as something that can be identified/measured in conjunction with the observable aspects of one’s behaviour. This simply could not be otherwise: what has been mentioned earlier presupposes that there are some hidden forces at play, within the context of how the company proceeds with the implementation of its talent management policy.

Discussion/Recommendations

In light of what has been said earlier, it will be appropriate to suggest that the main talent identification/retention issue, faced by Google, has to do with the general unreliability of a psychological evaluation, as the instrument of identifying competencies in a person. Regardless of whether the individuals in charge of designing the talent-identification tests are being aware of it or not, they invariably approach the task in a manner consistent with what accounts for their own emotional and cognitive predispositions. This alone implies that psychological tests cannot be 100% non-biased by definition. There is, however, even more to it. As practice indicates, it is specifically one’s readiness to confirm/adapt to social pressures that more than anything determines his or her chances in aspiring to attain social prominence (Mesoudi, 2014). In this regard, one’s giftedness often proves detrimental: society clearly favours conformist mediocrities above the truly gifted individuals. To be able to conform often means to be able to fake behaviour, as well as the responses to different psychometric tests. Unfortunately, the psychological paradigm of talent identification does not provide a reliable mechanism for distinguishing faked behaviours/talents from genuine ones.

Hence, the actual recommendation for Google: the company should consider abandoning the psychological approach to detecting talent and choose in favour of adopting the neuroscientific one instead. This approach is concerned with the scientifically proven fact that a person’s competencies are reflective of the morphological structuring of his or her brain (Bouchard, 2014). The data-collection technique, in this regard, is rather straightforward. A job applicant agrees to undergo a tomographic “brain mapping” procedure: the most up-to-date instrument of revealing hidden behavioural and cognitive predispositions in an individual. The obtained data is then being interpreted by neuroscientists and consequently passed to the company’s HR managers so that they can make a scientifically substantiated decision as to whether the concerned person does deserve to be hired or not (Kumar & Raghavendran, 2014). This will allow eliminating the element of perceptual bias, within the context of how the company’s hiring policies are being designed. The reason for this is apparent: the insights acquired during the “brain mapping” procedure are irrespective of the “mapped” individual’s race, gender, educational attainment, and social class.

There is a good reason to believe that the adoption of the suggested talent-detection model, on Google’s part, will prove highly beneficial. In particular, it will help the company to ensure that neither of its employees considers taking personal advantage of its affiliation with the former at the expense of undermining the company’s overall reputation. The rationale behind this suggestion has to do with yet another scientifically proven fact: one’s likelihood to indulge in the morally dubious (anti-social) behaviour negatively relates to the size of the associative segments in the person’s neocortex (Leite, Barker, & Lucas, 2016). Therefore, after having required a job applicant to undergo the brain-scanning procedure, Google’s managers will be able to tell whether the person’s commitment to the company’s corporate values is real or faked. The proposed approach should also prove highly effective as the tool of identifying those competencies in an individual of which he or she is not even aware (Rose & Abi-Rached, 2014). For example, to be able to excel in ensuring the visual appeal of a particular web design, the designer must be cranially “equipped” to do this: something that refers to the actual size of the occipital lobe in the employee’s neocortex.

There can be very little doubt that the provided recommendation applies to other IT companies as well. After all, it does not represent much of a secret that despite the abundance of highly educated job-seekers, many of these companies experience the constant shortage of fully competent and professionally committed employees. Some of these companies (such as Microsoft, for example) could not come up with any better way to address the situation but to make a point in hiring the needed specialists abroad. This would not be the case had the psychology-based approach to employee screening been effective. After all, as it was shown earlier, people are thoroughly capable of faking both their educational credentials and their professional attitudes. Yet, one is hardly capable of faking the morphological subtleties of his or her brain, which in turn define the essence of the person’s cognitive and psychological predispositions. An IT company may be experiencing an acute need for someone capable of ensuring the success of its marketing campaign with the company’s managers remaining unaware that the right person for the job has already been hired as a janitor. The provided talent-management recommendation aims to empower HR managers.

Conclusion

As one can infer from the paper’s analytical parts, it is indeed appropriate to consider Google’s current difficulties with managing/retaining talented employees being suggestive of the fact that the psychological paradigm of talent detection can no longer be deemed thoroughly viable. The reason for this is apparent: it does not take into account the neurological specifics of how the brain processes information and reacts to external stimuli. As a result, it suffers from the lack of axiomatic integrity: the psychology-based insights into the subject matter are essentially speculative and as such, they cannot be regarded representing any objective truth-value (Lee & Hunsley, 2015).

Google’s failure in trying to take practical advantage of the transformational theory of motivation is perfectly illustrative, in this regard. After all, the concerned development resulted in yielding exactly the opposite effects of the initially anticipated ones. Because of the post-industrial modernity’s competitive challenges, such a state of organisational affairs within the company can no longer be tolerated. HR managers are no longer in the position to believe that they will be able to retain their jobs after having failed even once. This once again suggests that, when it comes to selecting and retaining talented employees, Google (and other IT companies) should be willing to apply a continual effort in making sure that the concerned practice is fully consistent with the most recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience. This, of course, will require the company to reassess what the very term “talent management” stands for.

References

Baron, E. (2017). Google makes billions by failing to properly police rampant ‘click fraud’ on ads: Lawsuit by Vacaville man. Web.

Bouchard, T. (2014). Genes, evolution and intelligence. Behavior Genetics, 44(6), 549-577.

Gilbert, S., Horsman, P., & Kelloway, E. (2016). The motivation for transformational leadership scale. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 37(2), 158-180.

Gobble, M. M. (2017). The datification of human resources. Research Technology Management, 60(5), 59-62.

Kumar, H., & Raghavendran, S. (2014). Not by money alone: The emotional wallet and talent management. The Journal of Business Strategy, 34(3), 16-23.

Lecture 13. How to Measure Talent and Performance: Psychometric Approach. Lecture 14. Identifying Talent.

Lecture 15. Developing and Retaining Talent. Lee, C., & Hunsley, J. (2015). Evidence-based practice: Separating science from

pseudoscience. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry / La Revue Canadienne De Psychiatrie, 60(12), 534-540.

Leite, S., Barker, C., & Lucas, M. (2016). Neural correlates of postformal stages of reasoning: Biological determinants of developmental stage. Behavioral Development Bulletin, 21(1), 33-43.

Mesoudi, A. (2014). How cultural evolutionary theory can inform social psychology and vice versa. Psychological Review, 116(4), 929-952.

Moore, C. (2016). The future of work: What google shows us about the present and future of online collaboration. TechTrends, 60(3), 233-244.

Rose, N., & Abi-Rached, J. (2014). Governing through the brain: Neuropolitics, neuroscience and subjectivity. Cambridge Anthropology, 32(1), 3-23.

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

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