gDNA, Google, employment satisfaction

Google’s gDNA: An Analysis of Employee Satisfaction and its Impact on ROI

Now two years into its planned 100-year lifespan, Google’s GOOG gDNA is an unprecedented and ambitious big data study that closely examines the lives and habits of 4,000 Googlers each year. Its goal is to understand how employees’ work lives interact with their personal ones, and how to help create more satisfied and productive workers.

One of the study’s first conclusions is that most Google employees have serious problems separating their work lives from their personal ones. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google, writes that the gDNA data has so far shown that 69% of Google’s workforce are “Integrators,” those unable to separate work from social life. Just 31% of Google staffers are “Segmentors,” those who are able to prevent “blurring” work and home lives.

Job satisfaction and professional/personal life balance are not just “touchy-feely” subjects. Both have significant impacts on the company’s bottom line. Simply put, satisfied employees are more efficient and productive, impacting shareholder value in ways that become more apparent and measurable over time.

Google consistently ranks at or near the top of the best employers in the world. In June 2014, it topped LinkedIn’s LNKD InDemand survey of most desirable employers in all sectors, not only technology, for the second year in a row. It also ranked number one on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For 2014, as it has since 2007.The average salary for a Google software engineer is nearly $119,000 per year, roughly 40% higher than the national average.

So, why is Google’s employee retention rate so dismal? In a 2013 study by Payscale Human Capital, Google tied for fourth place in employee churn, with median tenure of just 1.1 years.

How is Google addressing the problem? According to Bock, the company will continue to gather data via gDNA’s scientific methodology to experiment and learn more. In response to early findings, Google’s Dublin office is experimenting with something called “Google Goes Dark.” On average, employees who check in their devices at the front desk at night report “happier evenings.”

Bock reportedly based gDNA on the Framingham Heart Study in Massachusetts which is in its 66th year and has yielded data on genetics, longevity, health, feelings of happiness and more. Hopefully gDNA will provide as much insight into employees work versus personal lives as Framingham has on the impact of habits on heart health.

Bock says that the gDNA research will be used to improve job satisfaction, employee productivity and company profitability at Google. Ultimately, it could open its findings to the estimated $26 billion human resources consulting market, much like it has opened its Android operating system, so that others can add value to and find value in the gDNA ecosystem. Imagine how much insight 100 years of human capital big data will unearth.


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