Google HR grows up

I’ve gotten some compliments lately about the way I work with Millennials — that vague demographic term that (from my perspective) includes adults born since the advent of personal computing.

I like teaming up with these people, and they seem to like me. The ones I meet in professional contexts are smart, enthusiastic and fluent in a language of technology I had to acquire as a young adult. (Granted, I was playing with art and music in high school, not computer kits.)

In the world of startups, Millennials are frequently the founders and big thinkers of the companies I help. I like to see my experience inspire smart people with new ideas, and their insights form a virtuous circle — I often walk away with my synapses snapping.

But there are moments when I think, “I’m a grown-ass man! Why do I feel like I’m applying to Burger King?”

One glaring example is the fascination with college grade-point averages that was pioneered by Google and copied by a bunch of young companies with a preternatural interest in what I was doing back when I was too young to drink. (For the record, I finished UC San Diego’s anthropology department at age 19 with a minor in French literature, a 3.8 GPA and a magna cum laude degree bestowed because of a thesis — written on a manual typewriter — about the Krishna Consciousness movement‘s re-creation of caste in America. Want to talk about Rimbaud?)

Hallelujah, Google has apparently seen the light about the irrelevance of GPAs to anything adults young or old may actually be doing in the workforce. New York Times “Corner Office” columnist Adam Bryant spoke with Google SVP for “people operations” Laszlo Bock about ditching some of the company’s goofier screening practices after correlation between those practices and actual job performance. (Hint: Google’s notorious brain-teasers are also a big, fat waste of time.)

Here’s a sample of Bock’s take on GPAs. (I urge you to read Bryant’s whole interview!) “One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.”

And why is that?

“After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different,” Bock told Bryant. “You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently. Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are … conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”

Please let this insight sink into the rest of the industry! I’m glad to think young, but (as I mentioned in a CBS MoneyWatch column) I probably gained more business insight in bands during those years than I did in school.

If we’re going to brainstorm, let’s jam, not go back to class.

One thought on “Google HR grows up

  1. Toby!! ;)

    Was reading the Steve Garris thread again, and have to say that he was decidedly not all about his persona. I have one story that might curl your hair. He was legitimate- pretty nuts. Anyhow- You now have my new email. I’m running a really complex construction job for a lot of money, I miss your input. Take care- Toby.


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