What We Can Learn From Google About Togetherness This Christmas

It’s the end of the year once again, and the holidays have always been a time for dysfunctional family get-togethers. But with any luck this dysfunction doesn’t carry through to your teams within the workplace. Google is well-known as one of the best workplaces in the world (and arguably most Christmassy, check out their Santa tracker), and offers numerous benefits to its employees including free food and drink, tech talks, and even the freedom to take your dog to work. But many of the best features of workplaces are more intangible, it’s the things like comradery, feeling trusted, and loving what you do which make for truly engaged and happy employees.  And as usual, Google have not neglected this vital aspect of the employee experience. Over the past two years they’ve gathered massive amounts of data on the attitudes and skills in the company, as well as conducting more than 200 interviews, in order to determine what makes their high performing teams work.  Here’s the five key ‘dynamics’ that they found are critical to team success:

  1. Psychological safety: Team members need to feel as if they’re able to take risks without the risk of feeling embarrassed or being punished. This is particularly important in an innovative environment such as Google, where taking risks (and the failure that sometimes accompanies it) is critical to their ongoing success.
  2. Dependability: A lot of the time, a team is only as effective as its least productive member, especially when work gets bottlenecked with them. Google counts on teams and team members who can get work done on time – and to a high standard of quality.
  3. Structure & Clarity: Even the most productive worker won’t achieve much if they don’t have their potential channelled effectively. Structure and clarity ensures that team members have clear roles, goals, and a plan to achieve them.
  4. Meaning: Google ensures that work is personally important to team members. While of course this isn’t possible for every single task an employee will perform (we all have those little jobs we’d rather avoid), creating a job that is personally important is absolutely critical to employee happiness, and ultimately a long tenure at a company.
  5. Impact: No one wants to feel as if their hard work is going to waste and never seeing the light of day. Impact refers to team members believing that their work is going to make a difference and will create long-term change within the organisation.

Over the past year, Google has had their teams engage in exercises designed specifically to build on these dynamics, and have implemented exercises as simple as having team members share a risk taken in the last week that have led to psychological safety ratings increasing by 6% and structure and clarity increasing by 10%. High performing teams are absolutely critical in today’s workplace, and team synergy is more than just a buzzword. By following the example set by Google we could all learn a little about making our teams the best they can be.

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