Searching For The Best Place To Work?

A Google sign is posted at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Thursday, April 19, 2007. Google is expected to report first-quarter earnings after the closing bell Thursday.
AP
Anyone who goes on the Internet recognizes the Google logo - it stands for the most widely-used search engine. And you'd have to search far and wide to find employees who get a better deal than Google's, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.


While employees for other companies have to worry about long commutes and high gas prices, the luxury bus that picks up Google software engineer T.V. Raman every morning offers a free ride direct to his office, with comfortable seats and wireless Internet, so he can begin working long before he gets to his desk.

"I read news. I catch up on e-mail," says Raman.

Everyone on this high-tech bus works for the high-flying Internet company Google. The company runs a fleet of free buses carrying more than a thousand employees to and from work every day.

The bus is especially helpful for Raman, who is blind and creates programs to turn Web sites into words.

After the free ride to work comes the free breakfast in a Google café.

"If you're focused on what you do and you are sort of an intellectual or a nerd, that someone actually feeds you sort of keeps you focused on what you do," says Raman.

The care and feeding of intellectuals, geeks and nerds may well be the key to Google's success. Talk to people who work at Google and it won't be long before they mention the food - the free food!

"The food definitely makes it worthwhile," said one employee.

The 8,000 workers at Google's Silicon Valley headquarters can eat for free in any one of 19 different cafes where the menus rival those at fine restaurants and include items such as falafel soufflé and goat cheese.

Google employees - "Googlers," as they call themselves - can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and never pay a dime.

"We've got the classic margherita pizza," says Executive Chef Scott Giambastini. "All the crusts for all these pizzas are made in-house, all made with organic flour."

Giambastini promises to feed the employees well, offering up other items like grilled salmon, flank steaks and sushi rolls. The food is fresh, local and often organic.

"All the best ingredients. No additives, no preservatives," says Giambastini.

As a skeptical reporter, you have to ask yourself, "Are they putting something in the food to make people apparently so happy to work here?"

Truth us, there's a long list of things that keep Googlers happy.

"When I got here, I was floored by the number of perks," said Adam Lindahl, a software engineer at the company for two years who takes advantage of many benefits, from the free gym to the company-subsidized massages, which he says are becoming a little addictive.

"Yeah, [when I] don't come in I get a little creaky and have to come in to get [a] massage."

There are places to rest, pools to work out in, and places to wash your clothes - complete with free ecological detergents.

Sometimes you have to wonder if anybody does any work here at all.

(CBS)
"Well, they're certainly working but they're also having a lot of fun," said Laszlo Bock (left), vice president of what Google calls people operations (though it's known as human resources anywhere else).

"One of the things we believe is that you want to make an environment that's efficient for people so that in their personal lives, they can live and enjoy and have a great time," Bock says. "And when they're working, they can focus on getting their work done."

To be sure, many Google perks serve the company at least as much as they serve the employees, says Jeffrey Pfeffer of the Stanford Business School.

"Some of that is to keep people on campus and working," says Pfeffer. "So some of this is if you do not have to drive anywhere to clean your car, go out and do laundry, or food, you will be more productive, in part because you will not be diverted by doing all these other things and partly because you will be at work"

Jen Mazzon could be seriously diverted by her 19-month-old twin boys, but Google gave her eight months of maternity leave - much of it fully-paid.

"There are a lot of women I know who had to go back after six weeks and I think about that and my jaw drops, [I] have heart palpitations and I feel incredibly lucky," she says.

Now her sons and 4-year-old daughter are in Google's subsidized daycare program. That's one place where Google's perks ran into trouble recently when the company proposed a steep fee increase.

"Prices started low and got high and now [are] more affordable," says Mazzon. "[I] thought of having to leave but they worked with the folks and reduced [the] price and now it is affordable again."

Bock admits there are business considerations behind all the perks.

"Well, we sort of have a bit of a social engineering perspective on it," he says.

The cafes, for example, are designed to get engineers from different parts of the company talking to each other - brainstorming.

"We watch the length of the lunch line," says Bock. "And we want them not so short that people don't have chances to interact, but not so long that you waste time. We try to think a lot about, how do you create these interesting moments where people come up with great ideas?"

The real key to Google's success may be that when employees do have great ideas, the company listens.

"Lots of organizations talk about giving power to frontline people and skilled people that they hire," says Pfeffer. "Google actually does it."

Google employees have goals that they are expected to reach, but they are given lots of freedom in getting there.

"We don't have a set time when people come in," says Bock. "If you come here at 9:00 in the morning, the parking lot's still half-empty. And it's because it's up to the individual and the teams they work with to figure out what's the best way for them to work together."

Google turns 10 years old next week. But its remarkable success has done little to change the way other companies do business.

"Ironically, the hardest thing to copy at Google is not the free food or massages or parking, which anyone can do," says Pfeffer. "The hardest thing to copy and for corporate leaders to get in their heads is that if you hire intelligent people you actually let them use their intelligence."

"If you give them freedom, they will amaze you," says Bock. "They'll surprise you with what they come up with."

And sometimes, they will come up with great things over one of those delicious free meals.