Both Australian and International research demonstrates growing studies on emerging workplace trends and shifts post-pandemic. The research typically focuses on the benefits (and preferences) of employees for flexibility and its role in promoting workplace satisfaction, productivity and participation (WGEA, December 2021)
Recognising these trends, and experiencing a growing demand for part-time work from both new and existing Googlers, created a compelling burning platform for Google AUNZ. Whilst increasing the availability of part-time work was important , of greater importance was “ensuring the experience was enjoyable, personalised, and scalable in order to remain a leader in flexible work benefits” says Jess Campbell, Market HR Lead AUNZ”. To make that happen, they needed to address the experience at a systems level, including addressing existing challenges identified with the current part-time employee experience before any further work was done.
Through an 18-month pilot program, in partnership with Beamible, Google focused on both understanding and addressing these challenges through a number of mechanisms focused on role adjustment processes, manager resources, tools for Googlers and HR capability development. The end result from the program is:
From a broader organisational perspective, the program achieved a consistent, compliant process that is employee-led and that responds to flexible work requests, positioning Google AUNZ to continue to win and retain the top talent across AUNZ.
As a bonus of the role design process, Google AUNZ has seen initial productivity benefits through the use of the Beamible work design platform which eliminates low-value work and facilitates focus on the most important, strategically aligned work for every person.
Google is widely regarded as a worldwide leader in employee experience and innovation. True to their reputation, the AUNZ market has recently introduced a flexible working program focused on part time work in partnership with Beamible.
The program was initiated by Google’s HR Market Lead for AUNZ, Jessica Campbell, who was inspired by a multitude of factors including personal experiences, watercooler moments around the office and overwhelming data that demonstrated how talent both want and expect to have all types of flexibility as a benefit. Part-time was the main focus - an important flexible work offering that many organisations fall short on.
The Flex program was focused on a few key areas, informed by data captured in a discovery process:
This case study takes an inside look into the burning platform for the program, how Google AUNZ implemented it, results they’ve seen after 18 months, and what’s next.
Employee demand as a single factor made the business case for Flexibility obvious, however, a summary of all four business drivers supporting the need, or burning platform, to uptake such a platform at Google AUNZ were as follows.
It became clear that Google AUNZ needed to do something about flex offerings when the ability to have time-based flexible working became a recurring feature question at Google’s ‘all hands’ meetings, with several others ‘up-voting’ the concept.
Flexible working comes in many forms, and while Google AUNZ had already taken steps to implement other forms of flexibility like focus days, global well-being days and hybrid work, strong employee advocacy for time-based flexibility was apparent.
2021-22 WGEA data shows ~9% of Industry competitors (media and technology) in Australia worked part-time, with all other organisations having ~20%. To remain competitive, Google AUNZ needed to ensure any latent and future demand for part-time was supported.
The National Employment Standards includes a right for certain employees to request flexible working arrangements (such as changes in hours of work) from their employer. An employer can only refuse such a request on ‘reasonable business grounds’.
Inviting Googlers to work in the way they want and need allows them to bring their entire selves to work. This is both critical to the employee experience and for generating business outcomes. We know that more women work part-time than men, so to achieve gender equality, we need to provide career pathways for all work models.
As long as we face a skills shortage, we will be in an employee-driven market. The data continues to support the idea that top talent want flexibility, both in a time and location capacity. It’s simple - to win the best talent, Google AUNZ must have the best benefits.
The process Google AUNZ followed to introduce their Flex program was split into four different phases.
Interviews, focus groups and a survey captured data from a large sample of Googlers in AUNZ, at different levels, genders, roles and functions. Jess earmarks this step as one of the most critical stages to implementing a successful flexible working program and for good reason. This phase proved that false assumptions were limiting growth and highlighted the potential barriers to Flex at Google AUNZ.
The data explored things like:
After Google AUNZ’s data allowed them to understand where the work needed to be focused, four teams were selected to pilot three different interventions in partnership with Beamible:
The role design pilots allowed the four teams to implement and test a methodology for planning how they would meet business outcomes with capacity gaps on their team, created by people working part-time.
The manager capability uplift enabled meaningful and difficult conversations for part-time role transitions at the individual and team level.
The team work intervention enabled agreement on key collaboration moments and ways of working.
The pilot learnings informed a tailored framework and library of tools, making the Flex program scalable.
The tools, resources, and processes to support a self-service format for both managers and part time Googlers in AUNZ includes:
A request for expressions of interest to uptake the program were circulated at this stage as well. Interestingly, this request revealed the true, significant demand for part time work within Google AUNZ. The proof came in the form of expressions of interest to uptake the program now or in the future.
The data showed that a large proportion of people were interested in the option to work part time if and when they needed to. This level of demand was consistent across many diverse teams. An unexpected outcome of this process was the halo effect of providing choice. Although the initial uptake was only a fraction of the expressed interest, engagement and loyalty received a boost as a result of simply knowing the program was being made available.
In phase 4, Googlers were invited to apply for flexibility in a self-service capacity using the self-service tools created by Google and Beamible.
To make it an incredibly easy experience for Googlers, they launched a team site equipped with the critical time-flex resources:
The project lead, Jess Campbell, has shared some of the critical factors to implementing a successful time-based flexible work strategy.
“It’s critical to understand the WFIM (what’s in it for me) benefit for the business, and why they should engage and invest in it. In addition, gaining their trust and buy-in is really important to making these types of programs stick”. While it makes a lot of sense to HR leaders, we need to try and understand ‘the why’ of top leadership and translate programs of work into their language. It’s key for winning hearts and minds.
At a company like Google or any other multinational company, it is easy to think you’re the best at everything. While these organisations have gotten to where they are because they do most things brilliantly, it’s important to realise that not everything is perfect. We found that embracing humility and working with an expert 3rd party vendor like Beamible to get a true understanding of best practices around flexible working made a huge difference in the success of the program.
It’s important for people to feel like they can go in and request flexible working arrangements at any time by themselves, and without barriers or bias. The program has been built in a way that Googlers and managers can access playbooks, live videos and other supporting resources through an internal Flex site, created as part of this program. This is a key part of making the program scalable. And the Community, the self-moderation of employees coming together is shifting beyond an HR program and is part of the empowerment that employees feel with a program like this, contributing to the exponential growth.
The Flex program is growing in strength every day and we will continue to see results well into the future - many of which we likely didn’t expect. This is what we’ve seen to date as of December 2022.
Talent retention through a number of successful and new flex requests across various functions, roles and levels. As described by Jess, Beamible has been “…a great retention tool… to catch people before it’s too late (which can often be when the conversations present themselves).” Conversations about what people want and need, and where they get joy and energy, can make the difference between losing them or not – and Beamible makes that easier.
Business outcomes, ensuring important and strategic work still gets done and business outcomes are protected.
Over 100 active (and growing) participants have joined our flex community. This community is a volunteer lead community that helps us understand the sentiment on flexibility as well as creating a healthy conversation about what we need to continue focusing on to improve the program into the future.
Productivity gains: For those using Beamible and the Time Flex program simply by stopping or reducing low priority and duplicative work.
Increased employee satisfaction, with scores significantly improved and feedback overwhelmingly positive
Increased confidence in flex conversations for those who have engaged in workshop training. They report feeling more confident to speak with their managers or employees about flexible working
Rapidly growing interest for program uptake
New applications beyond flexibility, using Beamible and the role design principles for things like org design and efficiency. Google has teams that are currently using the tool to think about productivity and how to do work better and more efficiently.
The program has been a huge success with growing support from top-level managers and Googlers. We hope to see the program rolled out globally and want to extend on it as much as possible by:
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