A couple of weeks ago when I saw the news that Google employees around the world had walked out, I was shocked. Google. The company that is rated top notch on Glassdoor. The company that offers amazing perks most other companies can't even begin to compete with. Yes, Google.
After some research into what the employees were protesting, the Google employee walkout confirmed what HR professionals all around the country already knew. Employees want more than free food, mission/vision/values statements plastered on walls, and great benefits. Seriously, Google has to be one of the top rated companies in the world for their amazing cafeterias, on site child care, gyms, and other perks. On the surface it appears that Google did everything right on the Maslow hierarchy.
But is there more? Maslow's hierarchy also tells us that employees want safety, belonging and esteem which are internal motivators. When I look at the hierarchy and see that family, morality and respect of others are part of the hierarchy, I am reminded that it's not only the extrinsic benefits we offer that matter. We should also focus on the heart, soul and mind of our employees if we want an amazing culture. I wonder if the ultimate culture is found in the Golden Rule? That's for another article at another time.
I already knew employees don't work only for pay and perks. They commit to an organization when they feel valued and when the heart values of the employee line up with the company's values. Employees work at their highest potential when they see their coworkers being respected and treated fairly. Employees want to leave work at the end of the day and know there is purpose. Every HR professional around the country already knows this.
We also know employees want to feel free from harassment of any kind.
Employees want to know men and women are paid equally for the same job.
Employees want to know their leaders are transparent. In my three decades of HR experience, this is one thing I hear consistently...employees want transparency so they can trust. Gone are the days where we trust blindly in our leadership.
I write knowing that my point isn't about Google at all. I believe this is a chance to use the publicity of this Google walkout to evaluate your own leadership. It's also a chance to evaluate the policies, procedures and habits of your own organization. Are you leading and making decisions knowing that your employees are your greatest asset? Are you defending a culture that you can be proud of?
I am of the opinion that as leaders, we can purposefully and intentionally make choices to do the right thing. It will require grit, radical candor, difficult conversations, emotional intelligence, trust, and curiosity. Doing the right thing is hard. It might mean questioning the status quo. It might mean speaking up. It might mean being brave. It might mean having a difficult conversation fearing the scrutiny of higher ups. The question is, is it worth it? I believe it is and I believe doing the right thing is what great leadership legacies are made of.