Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ophthalmology - the next generation

Helen Tynan,  Head of Human Resources for Google Ireland  spoke recently at a "Commmerce and Cornflakes" breakfast , organised by the National College of Ireland and sponsored by cereal manufacturers Kellogs.

Ms Tynan told attendees at the breakfast that Google as a company has its pluses and minuses but there were things that worked for them that could be transferred to other companies.

What she didn't say, but what is true, that there are things that work for Google that could also work for ophthalmologists, particularly in the way they run and manage their practices.

 To get inside the mindsite of  Gen Y workers she asked the audience to think of teenagers aged 16 and 17 and young adults in the early 20s.

“They don’t sit, they land, they sprawl. When you are talking to them they are texting at the same time or checking their Facebook status or surfing the net. When they’re watching TV they have their laptops and they’re surfing at the same time. ake that and think about trying to put those people into a workforce and getting the best out of that generation.”

Google, said Ms Tynan, is a young company entering its teenage years and has grown up with Gen Y and the majority of its employees and managers are Gen Y so they don’t have the same challenges of assimilating this new generation of employees as older more established companies. Google was not set up as a traditional company and was never intended to become one.

So how does this philosophy transfer to the Google workforce. A typical Google workplace would include laptops everywhere,foosball, pool tables, volleyball courts, assorted video games, pianos, ping pong tables, and gyms that offer yoga and dance classes. Healthy lunches and dinners are provided for all staff at a variety of caf├ęs. and break rooms are packed with a variety of snacks and soft drinks to keep Googlers going.

But, said Ms Tynan, it’s not just fun for fun’s sake, it’s fun because it works and it encourages people to collaborate, get together and share ideas.

“It’s not all about beanbags and foosbol tables They work and they work fantastically well in a culture that has evolved around them,” she said. “Our intellectual property is our employees and from the very beginning part of the culture of Google was to take care of employees and to reward them for innovation and creativity.”

One area of particular interest, she said, is that in Google employees are allowed to spend 20 per cent of their time working on projects outside of their core working task. This is usually Google related which encourages them to come up with ideas for new products or improvements in existing products.
Gmail  was one of successful products to come out of this 20 per cent model.

Google spends a lot of its time on the hiring process and most employees will go through four or five interviews before they are recruited. They hire very bright people, said Ms Tynan, and provide them with an infrastructure to get the best out of them. “We don’t have a lot of formalities or policies. We try to let people get on with their jobs, improve their jobs and come up with new ideas. Every day we try to see what people are capable of and it’s amazing what people can do if you stay out of their way.”

So how can this translate to other companies? They should take risks with their employees and  not become overreliant on policies and procedures.  “Give employees freedom and give them trust and if it’s abused handle the cases individually . What we sometimes do in human resources is to legislate for five per cent of abuse rather than the 95 per cent of people who can be trusted.”

Good recruitment is also essential. “If you hold tough and hire the best people for your company and your culture you will reap the benefits of it,” said Ms Tynan. “This is not about academic brilliance, this is about someone who is going to demonstrate the values that are important to your culture and your team.” Even if you are desparate to fill a vacancy, she said, don’t hire someone who is not good enough and hold out for the best candidate for the job.

Openness is also important, she said, and staff should be briefed and consulted as often as possible and if they ask questions they are answered. “If you work for Google, you are trusted with information,” she said. “Confidential information is shared extensively internally.”