Are Google’s Engagement Programs Losing Oxygen?

An article came out recently highlighting Google’s new “death benefits” offering where the spouse or domestic partner receives 50% of the deceased googler’s salary for 10 years.

An article came out recently highlighting Google’s new “death benefits” offering where the spouse or domestic partner receives 50% of the deceased googler’s salary for 10 years.

While this perk is well worth the positive press it has generated from Forbesand CNN, it also perhaps reveals Google’s talent strategy for fighting the ongoing talent war raging across Silicon Valley. By announcing “death benefits” it appears Google is willing to spend the money required to turn the tide in the talent war considering the company has lost several high profile employees to rivals Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The question remains, will benefits like this alone turn the tide?  The even bigger question for Google: will these benefits keep great performers (who are likely to have great offers elsewhere), or keep average performers who will feel boxed in, resentful and unable to leave?

Since Google’s Laszlo Bock is widely lauded (and followed) for his innovative use of analytics in the talent landscape (see Project Oxygen), it would be fascinating to find out if he’s done any analytical work to determine whether the many perks actually attract, motivate and retain the most talented googlers? Or, do they retain everyone?

From the outside, it would seem these “one size fits all” benefits are a business as usual approach, just a newer version of “golden handcuffs” designed to retain employees after a merger is announced. If Google’s benefits succeed in retaining disengaged employees, is it really different than employees who “rest and vest” after a merger?

Unless Bock can use data to prove this death benefit directly correlates to an increase in employee engagement and performance, is introducing a benefit that may grudgingly retain disengaged employees at the cost of performance really good for the business? Or did Google’s People Analytics team give up and admit they don’t know what their employees want by throwing a lot of money at a problem they don’t know how to solve in a new and creative way? At Talent Analytics, we suspect this won’t work and yet companies all over the world will continue to copy Google’s engagement programs to their detriment. Google will continue to lose top performers to the competition and Bock’s team will have to think up another benefit. Death benefits for Googlers’ pets perhaps?

Google’s Opportunity: Use Analytics to Customize Engagement & Retain Top Performers
Instead of essentially giving up on engaging the living with a “one size fits all” solution like adding yet another benefit, Google could easily leverage analytics to understand the payoff for the googlers doing the work. This data (gathered in 1/2 hour) could inform customized opportunities to motivate and retain them. Analytics technologies exist today that can do just this, in a scalable, budget-friendly way designed for global organizations, including the midmarket, that want and need to get the greatest performance out of their people.

Your Key Takeaway: if disengaged employees keep leaving your organization for the competition, don’t take Google’s business as usual approach of treating the symptoms by offering more “can’t say no” benefits. Instead, use analytics in an innovative way to treat the disease by finding out what your top performers care about and customizing incentives accordingly. Get in touch, we’ll be happy to show you how.

Mike Kennedy is a Technical Evangelist at Talent Analytics, Corp. He can be reached via and @talentanalytics.