Google Staff: Asset or Potential Problem?

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That Google, it always has to be different. While most tech companies claim to have difficulty filling their staff rosters, the search giant is hiring to excess.


Speaking during a recent earnings call, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said staffing was the one area in which the company exceeded its projected expenses during 2007's second quarter, according to a transcript on SeekingAlpha.


CFO George Reyes noted that Google added 1,548 employees in 2007's Q2, bringing its total work force to 13,786. Responding to an analyst's question later in the call, Schmidt said Google intended to be "careful" about head count.


Is it possible that Google has hired too many folks? Our favorite anonymous pundit, Fake Steve Jobs (whom we love despite our general aversion to anonymity on the Internet), seems to think so. He refers to Google staffers as:

a bunch of spoiled coddled self-involved Lego-playing 20-somethings who have free massages and dry cleaning and groovy ethnic food and have been turned loose with no adult supervision to do whatever the f**k they want, and who all are suffering from acute Attention Deficit Disorder so that they never finish anything because they get bored and move on to the next stupid idea that some bozo has dreamed up on a white board.

While this seems unduly harsh, FSJ has a point. Google frequently has seemed to suffer from a lack of focus.


A purportedly leaked memo from a Google employee who defected to Microsoft was widely distributed around the Internet earlier this month. It described overworked managers who are responsible for "tons" (more than a hundred) individual employees and a work environment that is "just like college" in that it relieves employees from thinking about the most basic needs (like food and transportation).


The college comparison appears to be spot-on, judging from a video tour of the Googleplex taken by Mercury News staffer Dean Takahashi. Many scenes made me think of FSJ's post, including a monster white board filled with frenetic scribbles.


Like many folks, I found college a great environment for mulling "big picture" ideas. Sadly, however, I often had trouble with such mundane details as getting papers turned in on time or remembering information actually covered on exams.


Another of our favorite tech pundits, Robert Cringely, opines that one risk of giving employees such free rein (as in the famed "20 percent policy" that allows them to spend that much time working on individual projects) is that staffers whose ideas don't come to corporate fruition may leave to start their own companies -- some of which could compete with Google.