How Google Works
Work Rules!

How Google Works

Laszlo Bock, Google’s head of People Operations, explains its highly effective HR policies.

Former McKinsey consultant and GE executive Laszlo Bock joined Google in its infancy and now oversees its People Operations. He explains Google policies you could draw from to transform your organization from a company that controls employees to one that sets them free to innovate, make improvements and inspire one another. 

Bock asserts that Google’s philosophy stems from founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s early decision to make talent their first priority. To retain the people it hires, Google provides them with stock ownership, benefits, freedom, autonomy and inclusion. 

Command-oriented, low-freedom management is common because it’s profitable, it requires less effort and most managers are terrified of the alternative.Laszlo Bock

The business press and business people, unsurprisingly, raved about Bock’s portrayal of Google’s HR approach. Forbes said, simply, “The book is a true masterpiece.” And John Doerr, managing director at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, called this, “The finest book on organizational culture that I have ever read.” Other highly-regarded works on today’s management and HR strategies include Dave Ulrich’s HR Transformation, Kim Scott’s Radical Candor, and Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer’s No Rules Rules.

Google Policies

Today, Google attracts, motivates and retains some of the world’s top talent. Once it hires these stars, they thrive, and they stay. Bock outlines the personnel policies Google follows. He reports that the company’s leaders attribute its success to their decision to keep work meaningful by giving people the freedom to be their best, knowing they will act like founders, not employees, and that they’ll preserve and enhance Google’s culture.

Bock illustrates Google’s higher purpose by sharing stories about the ways staffers have helped people and how Google arranges for them to meet consumers they benefit. This may not entirely dispel from your mind the image of Google as a cultural octopus with its tentacles in every social interaction, but it’s nice to hear about positive events.

Bock emphasizes that Google values information transparency. He says sharing information helps it coordinate projects and reduce redundancy. The company encourages employees’ ideas, complaints and suggestions. Bock cites Page and Brin’s belief that if managers aren’t feeling nervous, then they haven’t granted their employees sufficient autonomy.


Bock asserts that Google’s most critical personnel function is hiring, and that’s where it spends the majority of its HR budget. This is Bock’s bailiwick, and his inside perspective proves quite valuable. Google hires only one-quarter of 1% of its millions of applicants. In contrast, Bock points out, Harvard University takes a little more than 6%.

You spend more time working than doing anything else in life. It’s not right that the experience of work, even at some of the best employers, should be so demotivating and dehumanizing.Laszlo Bock

Google’s managers work with its employees to create clear, measurable and aggressive goals. The company doesn’t let managers pick new hires for their teams, fire people, or bestow raises and promotions. As Bock clarifies, these limitations strip managers of coercive power. Employees nominate themselves for promotions, and a committee decides who moves up. 

Google focuses on its bottom 5% and top 5% of performers. Bock explains that Google studies its best workers to learn what drives superior performance and uses those findings to assist underperformers and hire better people. 


Bock catalogs Google’s employee benefits, including free food, free shuttles, electric cars for employees to borrow and on-site subsidized day care. He says Google reaps enough returns for its generous policies – in the currency of staff goodwill, loyalty and retention – to neutralize the cost of fully paid maternity leave and spousal death benefits.

Bock covers the concern that Google may create a sense of entitlement by offering generous life and work benefits. He makes the proud claim that Google puts principles above profits – this is only one of several moments that reveal how deeply Bock drinks of Google’s Kool-Aid. His unvarnished devotion to Google might make you a shade skeptical of his unending praise, but it does not blunt the practical advice he offers. 

As a leader, giving up status symbols is the most powerful message you can send that you care about what your teams have to say.Laszlo Bock

To protect Google’s values of trust and transparency, Bock spells out that anyone who leaks priviledged information is fired immediately. So, if you wonder whether Bock reveals any Google secrets – nope.


No workplace is as wonderful as Bock paints Google to be, but you can’t argue with its success. If you’ve read about or researched Google’s management methods, you already know most of its tools for motivating and retaining employees. If you’re new to learning about Google, Bock provides a solid background. But he is a company man all the way, and Google can do little wrong by him. Bock presents its policies as a kind of gospel and never cites any internal contradictions or contradictions between Google’s principles and its actions. However, by describing its singular, rational and absurdly effective HR approach, Bock offers a valuable tool for leaders at every level in all industries.

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