Sometimes a business meeting can teach you more in the moments leading up to it than the meeting itself. Last Friday David and I visited Google’s offices in Atlanta to discuss business with their Google+ product. Neither of us had been to their offices before and we were looking forward to seeing behind the curtain.

From the moment we stepped out of the elevators we knew we were in Google-land. Stepping through the glass doors into their greeting area and front desk, we were immediately welcomed by both a pleasant human staff member and a wall with an ever-refreshing display of Google World showing images of random locations all over the globe that would zoom in so close you could see individuals walking on the ground in their respective locations.

After signing in, our badges printed out and our contact, Addie, came to meet with us and show us around the Google offices before settling in for business. Addie offered us something to drink.

“Google provides us with snacks and plenty of drinks…we can get you almost anything you want,” she said.

To be sure, Google provides its employees none of the usual reasons to leave the workplace during the day and the atmosphere is decidedly more fun and social than business as usual

Google’s culture is both intentional and pervasive, made obvious in three key areas.

1. Design

From the multi-colored spots in primary colors that run from walls to carpeting to the whimsically decorated cubicle islands, the workspace was designed with the culture in mind.

“A lot of people think our workplace looks a lot like kindergarten,” Addie said.

The only offices with doors are dedicated to conference calls and meetings, otherwise employees are cubicle bound.

2. Considering the employee as a whole

Employees are considered holistically – as people with full lives. The cafeteria serves free breakfasts and lunches to its employees every day in addition to the snacks and beverages always available. As we toured the office, we observed pets casually strolling the hallways (one dog wandered in during our meeting and greeted each person with a sniff before dismissing us and going back out to the hall), a barbershop, an area for regularly scheduled massages, and a nap room with a jungle motif. The entire employee was considered in design – and not just the working part of the person.

3. Follow through

Google employees drink their own Kool-Aid. Every computer browser is set to Chrome, meetings are conducted using Google+ Hangouts, and their conference offices are technologically prepared and pre-installed to favor all Google-related products.

Even if you aren’t Google, with some strategy and a great process, you can shift your organization’s culture to something fantastic. Cultural awareness is critical to having an organization that operates with intentionality. Cultural change, like most change, is not an easy undertaking. It all begins with the vision you have for your culture.

With what mindset do you want your organization approaching each day? What about how your employees approach their interactions with each other? How are your clients or members welcomed and what is their experience like? What is your mindset toward problems or adversity?

As David and I left Atlanta’s Google offices, we were already discussing the great benefits of being an employee for an organization who considered its employees’ needs comprehensively.

“Can you imagine being in your early twenties and working for a place like that?” David said.

“You could get in at the ground floor, work hard, and write your own ticket.”

What are people saying about your organization? How intentional is your culture?




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