By Rachell Newburn

The latest San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce Insight Studios’ all-day trip took us to Google’s HQ offices. During this amazing experience, 40 business leaders learned how Google reinforces and boosts up its workforce in accordance with its mission to ‘organize the world’s information and make it useful’. From machine learning to the fundamentals of high-performing teams, here’s some key takeaways to keep in mind for your day-to-day business operations. 

Machine Learning Will Affect the Workforce

According to presenter Harlan Findley, Google’s Director of Strategy, Planning and Analysis, machine learning (ML) is an automated way to take trillions of historical data and recognize patterns. The catch? These are patterns that humans are unable to recognize on their own. Findley says that ML is everywhere, and growing. For example, it can help marketers tailor a product to their customer’s specific taste. Or,  it can review sales contracts more quickly and determine any anomalies. The coming storm, however, is the way ML could disrupt the workforce. Findley says that there are concerns about available human labor in the future. For example, self-driving cars may take jobs from long-haul truckers. To combat this loss, it’s important to focus education efforts into coding, statistics, algebra, and creativity. In fact, data science jobs are expected to grow by 19%, which is much faster than average job growth for other fields. Machines won’t take over everything; there will still be a need for actual humans to interpret the data spit out by the machines.

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Maintaining High-Performing Teams

Speaker Jim Morocco, Google’s former VP of Finance, says the number one thing team members want is to be valued and appreciated. In fact, he feels that praise is the most underutilized tool. Leaders can save their team members from burnout with a simple act of praise. Every business can learn from Google’s model of quality of hours vs. quantity of hours, and building efforts to ensure the workforce is sustainable and happy. Leaders can take their team out for lunch, or coffee, or even invite lower-ranking employees to join meetings that they typically wouldn’t be a part of. Creating a company culture aimed at eliminating burnout, collaboration, and being team-oriented is essential to ensuring the sustainability of the workforce.

Using Psychological Safety and Inclusion in High-Performing Teams

Briana Kearns, Google Staffing and Operations Analyst, discussed the level of comfort employees have in taking risks at work. Like Morocco, Kearns said that praise is the most powerful tool a leader has to encourage their employees, but it’s important to be able to scale that praise. For example, at Google, getting a birthday cake for everyone’s birthdays isn’t scalable – that would be thousands of birthday cakes a year. Instead, they give money to the employee’s charity of choice or write a hand-written and heartfelt thank you note. Kearns also states that peer reviews should never be anonymous in order to allow everyone to be open and comfortable with feedback and constructive criticism. She admits this type of culture isn’t easy to create, but leaders must take ownership of the culture to build their high-performing teams.

Bottom Line

A company’s culture comes from the top. Employees will grow and turn to their leaders to make the work environment valuable, inclusive, and without burnout. Every bit of praise counts; be sure to let your employees know how much you value them in order for them to maintain their level of high performance, especially as machine learning integrates its way into the growing workforce.

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