How Google Motivates and Retains Employees

Subject: Business
Type: Profile Essay
Pages: 7
Word count: 1963
Topics: Google, Human Resources, Management, Teamwork


The work environment has evolved in the modern day with elements such as virtual teams and the use of social media being some of the new developments that are changing how things are done at work. Information technology companies such as Google have adopted these workplace developments. Singh (2016) argues that firms that acquire changes that affect the work environment must develop ways of motivating and retaining employees because these changes affect the expectations and behavior of workers. Cheminais (1998) defines motivation as the conscious or subconscious forces that drive a person to act in a certain way in order to acquire fulfillment. Google has developed various techniques of motivating its workers; for example, the organization offers free food and snacks to employees who work at the headquarters. This paper will analyze how Google motivates and retains employees in relation to the theories of motivation and leadership.

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Employee Motivation and Retention at Google in Relation to Motivation Theories

The nature of motivation is a critical element in the understanding of employee motivation within an organization. Deci and Ryan’s theory of self-determination argues that people undertake various actions because of two types of motivation; these include extrinsic and intrinsic motivation (Davila, Epstein & Shelton, 2007). According to the theory, intrinsic motivation arises from within an individual and it drives people because they enjoy doing the work that is presented to them, they love the environment or they love helping other people (Bergvall, Nielson & Springer, 2016). An intrinsically motivated person undertakes a task willingly because they derive satisfaction from the activity. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, arises because of an external reward; salary increase and promotion at the workplace are examples of this type of motivation. Individuals evaluate extrinsic motivators based on the benefits and the costs of undertaking the activity. When the benefits of an undertaking exceed the costs, the individual is motivated to work and perform better because the expected benefits are high.

The social psychological theory also argues that individuals who are intrinsically motivated are flexible and willing to try out new ways of solving problems (Robbins, Bergman & Coulter, 2017). These individuals keep trying to solve the challenges that they face at the workplace until they get the most efficient techniques of achieving their goals. Leadership within an organization can motivate employees internally. For example, the use of transformational leadership style, which fosters creativity and participation of employees, motivates the workers to focus on performing their jobs efficiently. Transformational leadership style also motivates workers because the leader shuns micro managing of workers and instead lets them to carry out the creativity process with minimal supervision (Davilla, Epstein & Shelton, 2007).

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Google has developed a technique of motivating employees intrinsically using the 20% time policy. The 20% policy encourages employees to spend at least 20% of their time on projects that are not in their work schedules. These are projects that the employees love and that cultivate creativity in the workers. In fact, the 20% policy led to the development of various apps such as Ad sense and Gmail, which competes with Yahoo Mail (Jilian, 2015). The organization has not provided any guidelines for the policy; instead, any employee who has a project in mind is allowed to utilize 20% of their weekly working hours on developing the project. An employee may choose to work full time for months and then take time off to work on the individual project consistently; for example, one may work on the project continuously for days or even months (Jilian, 2015). The project becomes an organizational objective when it makes significant impact; more employees are invited to work on the project at that time.

Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation argues that employees are motivated to work when they satisfy their needs. According to Maslow, human beings arrange their needs in the form of a hierarchy; when a person satisfies the needs in the lowest hierarchy, the individual starts pursuing the needs in the next hierarchy on the ladder (Robbins, Bergman & Coulter, 2017). Physiological needs are at the lowest point on the ladder meaning that one has to satisfy them before moving on to fulfilling needs in the next hierarchy. These needs are mostly made up of basic items such as food, air, water and drinks. Google uses extrinsic means of satisfying the physiological needs of workers, hence motivating the employees through extrinsic motivation. The organization pays workers high salaries, and these are followed by other physical benefits such as free food and drinks for employees who work in the office (Case study-Google, 2013). The food is prepared by the company’s employees and it also provides drinks such as water and soft drinks. Google however takes caution to ensure that employees stay healthy by arranging food and drinks such that the healthy options are visible before the unhealthy fast foods and drinks; for example, in the Manhattan’s office of the company, drinks are placed in the fridge such that water is the first item that a person sees after opening the gadget. The company argues that this method of arrangement actually works because employees choose the healthy options first; for example, the consumption of water in the office is 40% more than other drinks (Case study-Google, 2013).

Individuals then pursue safety needs after satisfying the physiological ones. Safety needs involve finding the sense of security from physical and emotional harm; for example, people want to be reassured that they will continue satisfying their physiological needs in the future. Cappeli (2014) argues that Google provides its employees with job and health security. The organization employs permanent workers as a way of giving job security to these individuals; this motivates employees because they do not have to worry about losing their jobs anyhow. The high salaries and health insurance also gives workers a sense of security because they are able to pay their bills and maintain good health.

Human beings then pursue the third level of needs after achieving security, and this level entails acquiring love and a sense of belonging. At this level, individuals want to feel loved and appreciated by others because they are social beings. Google provides employees with this need by developing facilities such as gyms within its offices; the gyms give workers a chance to meet and socialize while exercising their bodies. This gives the workers a sense of belonging because they can relate with their coworkers in other ways apart from getting the job done. According to Hayden (2015), biomedical professionals have a tendency of taking up jobs at Google because they feel a sense of belonging when they work together with other professionals in the field. In an interview, one biomedical professional argues that the socialization with other individuals with technology backgrounds such as hardware and software made her take the job at Google (Hayden, 2015).

Maslow argues that esteem needs are the fourth in the ladder of needs. These needs include achieving respect and being recognized at the workplace and in the society. Organizations can do this by giving employees job titles so that they may feel recognized. Almost everything that Google does to its workers leads to the achievement of needs in this hierarchy; this is why the organization’s tendency to motivate employees has been recognized worldwide. The hefty pay perks and the provision of basic amenities in the offices of the company enables workers to feel respected and recognized. Finally, humans aim at fulfilling self-actualization needs that are at the top most level in the ladder. Self-actualization is achieved when workers have the autonomy to pursue and fulfill their personal dreams (Bergvall, Nielson & Springer, 2015). Google Inc through its 20% time policy gives workers the opportunity to pursue their dreams of developing apps and other software while still working in the company. Engineers at the company are also offered a chance to design their own workspaces so that they may be more productive in an environment that satisfies them fully (Jilian, 2015).

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Collaborative Leadership at Google

Google has also successfully used its leadership to attract, motivate and retain employees within the company. The organization uses collaborative leadership style to lead and motivate people to become more productive. Collaborative leadership involves the cooperation of leaders and workers at various levels in the organization. This leadership style takes into consideration the views of employees by letting them to participate in making decisions. Beier (2014) argues that organizations that acquire collaborative leadership may outperform their competitors because they achieve creativity and problem solving. According to Beier (2014), collaborative leaders must possess four major characteristics that include active listening, training workers, cultivating interest in the success of employees and supporting their career advancements. Leaders who have these characteristics make themselves available to their employees and this availability motivates workers to continue working in the company.

Schmidt introduced collaborative leadership style at Google where he introduced the slogan that happy people stay longer (Lepsinger & DeRosa, 2015). This meant that when an organization takes care of the needs of employees, the company achieves the capability to retain the workers. Schmidt availed himself to employees in all departments when they needed him or even on random visits; the leader helped these workers to solve the challenges that they faced and he commended them for the great work that they were doing in the organization. This culture continues in the organization until today whereby even if the manager does not pay employees a physical visit, the workers have been allowed to email the top executives without any limitation. Schmidt also introduced a culture of reading out the company’s goals to employees and then leaving them to conduct the implementation on their own (Manimala & Wasdani, 2013). This means that the leader does not dictate work or micro manage employees because of the belief that freedom and autonomy enables the workers to become creative. This style of leadership in the company has led to the development of apps such as Gmail, which enhances conversations between senders and recipient through electronic mail.

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Larry Page the founder of the company argued that respecting employees motivates them to respect the company. The leader said that the organization focuses on the achievement of final results instead of paying more attention on mere things such as how many hours an employee worked in a day. The leader argued that Google aims to be a family where staff members can feel a sense of belonging. The collaborative leadership at Google has made the organization’s work environment a haven that is admired by all and sundry (Beier, 2014).

Employee motivation and retention has evolved in the 21st century due to development that are taking place in organizations and also due to the rise of unique companies such as Google that focus on providing information to the world. Google, a technology company uses intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to encourage workers to become creative and productive. The organization has given workers the autonomy to develop and work on their own projects at least one day every week. The company also strives to fulfill Maslow’s hierarchy of needs of employees; for example, the company gives workers free food and pays them high salaries so that they may be able to fulfill their physiological needs. The autonomy to develop projects and design personal offices fulfills employees’ esteem and self-actualization needs. Google also uses leadership as a key motivator and retainer of workers. The company utilizes collaborative leadership style, which focuses on listening to workers, letting them to work independently and providing them with basic needs that give them comfort while at work. These techniques of employee motivation have enabled the organization to retain top talents that have in turn developed technologies such as Gmail and Google AdSense.

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