August 23, 2017

Defining Corporate Culture: Google Takes A Stand

The recent events in Charlottesville have forced companies from small startups to Fortune 500s to ask themselves difficult questions about what they stand for as an organization. This blog is the first in a series spotlighting companies that have had to make tough decisions about what their core values actually mean in practice. Today we take a look at the recent controversy around the released memo written by a Google employee.

This past week, the tech giant fired an engineer who wrote a controversial memo criticizing, among other things, the company’s diversity efforts and the role of women in the workplace. The memo spread like wildfire internally and then went viral, causing a massive PR headache for the company. The news story is a setback for Google which has been already under fire for gender discrimination. According to TechCrunch, “The timing of the saga is not good for Google, which was hit by a lawsuit in January to obtain compensation data, ending up with a snafu over gender pay discrimination.”

If Google is serious about addressing the real issues of gender discrimination in their organization, then they have some difficult work cut out for them. To do it, an organization must be committed to consistent communication to their employees of the values of the organization and be willing to take controversial stands when those values aren’t upheld.

However, these efforts will likely be futile absent a systematic approach to bringing on board individuals who are aligned to the company’s values and mission. Building a strong corporate culture is hard enough when team members do generally agree on values; it’s almost impossible when most don’t.

If your organization cares about your mission statement being more than just a tab on your marketing page, it will have to make decisions like the one Google recently made. The blowback from Google’s actions were magnified because it had failed to convince the public and its own organization of its authentic commitment to those values. Looking at strength of character in addition to job experience of your candidates is one way to do just that. You may even prevent hiring someone who discriminates against your employees or causes a media scandal for your organization.

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