Marketplace Scratch Pad

We know you want to quit

Scott Jagow May 19, 2009

Google is working on a mathematical formula to predict which of its 20,000 employees are most likely to leave the company, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s still in the test stage and crunching data is certainly Google’s forte, but other companies might go down this path too.

Google’s been losing talent lately to start-ups like Facebook and Twitter. From the Journal:

The move is one of a series Google has made to prevent its most promising engineers, designers and sales executives from leaving at a time when its once-powerful draws — a start-up atmosphere and soaring stock price — have been diluted by its growing size…

Google’s algorithm helps the company “get inside people’s heads even before they know they might leave,” said Laszlo Bock, who runs human resources for the company.

Spooky? The Journal cites one expert who says “a lot of companies are waking up to the fact that there is a lot of modeling that can provide you with critical data on human capital.” Well, it ain’t warm and fuzzy, but corporate America isn’t known for warm and fuzzy either. Even Google.

Google has surveyed employees in the past and when I Googled, I found why Google employees quit, a collection of testimonials from current and former Googlers. They complained about things people at most big companies complain about — the hiring process, the management, the bureaucracy, the small kitchen. Some samples:

“As soon as I got inside, I had the feeling of being swallowed by a giant borg. Really, I felt like I didn’t exist, watching people buzzing around with laptops.”

“Google is the car with all the sexy features but very little of what really matters. The amenities, extra-curricular(s) and conversation piece of “working for Google” is what keeps most working at Google.”

“Google is supposed to be some kind of Nirvana, so if you can’t be happy there how will you ever be happy? It’s supposed to be the ultimate font of technical resources, so if you can’t be productive there how will you ever be productive?”

Google’s cool factor seems to have worn off as it’s gotten bigger, not surprisingly. When I worked for a giant company, my biggest complaint was that I felt like a number. And I know many other people felt that way too.

Maybe that’s something Google and others should think about before going too far with formulas and algorithms in trying to keep talent.

I’m curious. Besides the obvious answer in this economy – “I need a job” – what makes you want to stay with an employer?

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