The Real Meaning Behind Why I Chose Google

I decided I was going to write about Google before I even clicked the links that Jordi suggested as starting points for this week’s blog assignment. Yes, I’m sure you’re thinking how unoriginal this choice is. Perhaps one of my peers will also blog about the same topic. However, before I get started, I wanted to take the time to clearly communicate the fact that I did not choose to write about Google just because it was the first company that came up on Jordi’s links. In fact, I did not even notice until after starting this post that the second sentence of the Jordi’s blog prompt was describing the environment at Google. Of greater importance however, it was not until after writing the majority of this post that I realized the reason that I was so set on writing about Google in the first place. I realized I had a powerful reason to be grateful for Google being so dedicated to the well being of their employees, and to the families of their employees (more to come about this). Therefore, for the purposes of this post, I chose to focus on a specific group of stakeholders- the employees.

First, here’s a little background. In 2014, Google, Inc. was the only company in its industry to make it on to Fortune’s best companies list. Not only did it make it onto the list, it was ranked number one. The company’s motto is “don’t be evil,” and, has done just that in its treatment of the environment. The company has donated over $1 billion to renewable energy projects through its Google Green Program, and has decreased its own carbon footprint through the use of energy efficient buildings and public transportation. Heck, I personally know that the employees are dedicated to creating a better environment because my cousin’s husband, Joe, who, might I add, is probably the last person you would ever expect to participate in physical activity, walks three miles each way everyday to his job at Google.

If you hadn’t already heard, the work environment at Google is impeccable. You know- nap pods, free QUALITY food in the cafeteria, free haircuts, free checkups, free on-site laundry machines. All at work. Yup, go look up a Googleplex campus. In doing so, you will see the evidence of Google’s goal to keep their employees as happy as possible. I mean, you can even bring your pup to work with you (as long as you clean up after them!). Google truly believes that these perks, in addition to a long list of others, help foster a work environment that allows employees to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.

Let me tell you though the reason I believe all this all to be the truth. Under incredibly unfortunate circumstances, I have come to know the true quality and dedication that Google has for their employees. In particular, the true quality of family health care plans and benefits that these employees are provided with. If such benefits were not provided, my cousin, April, likely would not have received the quality of care that she was able to receive after sustaining incredibly serious injuries that left her as the only survivor of a plane crash this past May. Due to the quality of care that she received thanks to her husband, Joe’s, Google employee health benefits, April was able to make a full physical recovery, one that she likely may not have achieved without such benefits and access to quality care. After seeing the amount of flexibility that Google provided to Joe to take care of his wife as they simultaneously coped with the loss of their four-year-old daughter in the accident, I truly believe that Google cares for their employees as individuals. I truly believe that they see their employees as individuals, not just as avenues to achieve greater profitability through. For these reasons, I will forever have the utmost respect for the quality of treatment and benefits that Google provides to their employees.

As we have learned in the past few weeks, stakeholders include not only owners of a company’s stock, but also the employees, customers, suppliers, and community. As seen in the way that they treat their employees, Google clearly takes the needs of their employee stakeholders, rather than their owners, into account. In my opinion, it is evident that Google illustrates their dedication to corporate responsibility through their primary concern of creating a well-respected image represented through their happy employees.

The Real Deal: Ed Freeman on Stakeholder Theory

In a room of twenty something students, Professor Hendry had just opened up the floor for questions for Ed Freeman. I sort of expected the awkward silence, but I didn’t really want to see how far it could go.

“Um, I’m taking a class called stakeholder management and-“

“Wait hold on, you have a class called what?”

“Er, The Stakeholder Organization?”

Ed started to tell us about how he submitted a paper to a publication, in the late 70’s – just a working paper, nothing complete- and the editors thought that the paper title “Stakeholder Theory” was a typo. Surely, the editors thought, Ed must have meant stockholder. He seemed pretty pleased that there was an entire class based on this concept.

“We’ve been talking about the distinction between stakeholder and shareholder theory in class, and how stakeholder is sometimes a catch-all for non shareholder companies. Is there anything you would define specifically as attributes of stakeholderism?

Freeman explained how stakeholderism and shareholderism are not mutually exclusive; shareholder value is definitely a part of stakeholder values. He asked, as a start-up business, “How are you going to make money?” There is no such thing as an entrepreneur that only cares about making money. You have to think about the various groups that have a stake in creating or receiving value from your business proposition. Specifically, he mentioned customers, community, employees, suppliers, and financiers as important groups to make relationships with when starting a business. Freeman alluded to the “soft, squishy stuff” that seems superfluous to traditional, capitalist business models, which really should be at the core of the company (stakeholders). The best companies, he went on to say, are high purpose companies led by fanatical, passionate individuals.

Later, I went to the microphone and asked a question after his lecture in Trout. I was perfectly fine until I started to speak into the microphone, so I think I phrased my question something like this, “Companies are doing additional things like CSR reports, but not as part of the original business model. How can we change the org structure to adopt a more stakeholder point of view?”

I was hoping that Freeman would talk about some of the ways in which companies have integrated CSR into their core business practices, and how organizational structures have changed to reflect these new practices. That is not how Freeman interpreted my question- which is fine- but it left me feeling less that satisfied. He talked about how changing a business takes time, and that our generation would be a part of creating that change. He noted that CSR stood for Corporate Stakeholder Responsibility, which confused me because I thought CSR stood for corporate social responsibility. Which are similar, but at least for me, not the same. I get his message, though; stakeholder theory in practice takes time. He mentioned that there is a disconnect between what we know to be a great business and how to run a business. I think Freeman was answering the question of how to transition from our current business models to an excellent business, and that really the only solution is that it takes time to change cultural norms.

I really do think my management education has made me more cynical, in that I thought Freeman’s lecture has a rosy glow about it. He spoke about opportunity, and well-intentioned people, but in the face of all that we’ve read for this class alone, I can’t help but think that not everyone is as well intentioned as the few companies he highlighted. I think actual implementation of stakeholder theory is complex, for any number of reasons, and Freeman skipped over a lot of those problems. Maybe he was intending his lecture as an introduction to the topic, but I would have liked to hear more about the actual barriers and successes of changing from shareholder to stakeholder that companies have and will face, and how I as a manager can anticipate and react to those changes. All in all, I am grateful I had the opportunity to hear about this concept from the man who literally invented it.

Cheers!

Blog 4- From Beanbags to Ethical Outcomes?

The BC (Liz, Kate R, me) met and had this idea for a prompt.

Does having beanbags and cafeterias and ping-pong tables for employees lead to better stakeholder outcomes?  To more ethical products or processes?  Like Fran Hawthorne asked about Apple, Inc in Ethical Chic, does a “cool” company translate into real ethical outcomes? Continue reading Blog 4- From Beanbags to Ethical Outcomes?