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Lesson 14, Activity 4
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Speaker: Frank – American

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What’s the best way to motivate your employees? Most companies use the standard method of offering promotions and threatening dismissal. But Google has taken an unorthodox approach to this challenge by pushing the boundaries of what can be considered a “workplace” further than ever before.

Inside the company’s headquarters, which is known as the Googleplex, the layout itself is far from conventional. Instead of cubicles and conservative décor, Google’s office feels a little like a grown-up playground. Bright colors abound, there are secret rooms with innovative themes around every corner, and pets can accompany their masters to work. Employees are encouraged to express themselves by writing on the walls, and are also given plenty of leeway in designing their own work stations – they can even have a treadmill attached so they can walk or jog while working.

The benefits for Google employees are unmatched – from cafés and vending machines offering free gourmet food to flexible hours and casual dress. (One of Google’s principles is that “you can be serious without a suit.”) The company not only offers a healthcare plan, but also includes on-site medical staff to attend to employees. Free haircuts, laundry, and dry cleaning are all part of the package – and children of Google employees can be enrolled in the in-house day care program, which has become so popular that the waiting list now numbers in the hundreds.

If the work gets stressful at times, Google employees can enjoy a subsidized massage service from a licensed therapist. Or they can take a break in one of the recreation areas, with pool tables, ping-pong, foosball, and even a swimming pool. In stark contrast to many other cutting-edge companies in their field, there is the idea that the weekend is strictly family time, and as much as possible of the Google dynasty shuts down on Saturdays and Sundays.

One of Google’s most controversial programs is called “Innovation Time Off,” in which engineers are allowed to spend up to 20% of their hours on projects that interest them. Although some criticize this policy as a waste of tech talent, the results speak for themselves: almost half of Google’s new products and services have originated in these independent endeavors. Having company-sanctioned time for innovation also energizes employees and increases their work output.

Working at Google sounds like a dream come true – but first you have to get through the hiring process. With such incredible perks, the company can afford to be picky when it comes to recruitment. This has led to their infamous interview questions, such as “How many ping-pong balls can you fit in a school bus?” Rather than searching for the most accurate answer, Google is likely filtering out people who won’t be a good fit with their company culture. They are seeking not only brilliant minds, but also creative types who resonate with their philosophy that “work should be challenging and the challenge should be fun.”

Extra Vocabulary

“cafés and vending machines offering free gourmet food”

  • “Vending machines” are machines that usually sell snacks and drinks, you put in some money and select the item you want. “Gourmet” food is especially nice or fancy food.

“Free haircuts, laundry, and dry cleaning

  • “Dry cleaning” is a method of cleaning clothes and certain fabrics, which uses chemicals but no water.

pool tables, ping-pong, foosball

  • These are three games that are played on tables. “Pool” is also called “billiards,” “ping-pong” is also called “table tennis,” and “foosball” can also be called “table soccer.”

“the results speak for themselves

  • This expression means that the benefits of the results are obvious; no extra evidence is needed.

“Having company-sanctioned time for innovation also energizes employees and increases their work output.”

  • If something is “sanctioned” by the company, it means it is officially approved, supported, and permitted. A person’s work “output” is the amount of work they produce.

“creative types who resonate with their philosophy”

  • If an idea “resonates with” someone, it means the person likes and feels a positive connection to the idea.

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