The Key to Productivity, Google-style

The Key to Productivity, Google-style

Project Aristotle finds the key aspects to the successful onboarding of new hires: it’s actually all rather simple.


“Great companies are built by great people; that’s why the ability to identify and attract talent is nearly as important as the ability to develop talent.”Inc.

The one aspect that many great thinkers and leaders alike have attributed success to, is in fact, simplicity. And, that simplicity is the key for firms onboarding new employees and getting them up to speed with the workings of the firm is embodied by none other than tech giant Google. Even intuitively, figuring out how exactly new talent can understand the nuances of their roles and fit into existing structures quickly is crucial to firm productivity.

Project Aristotle

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ – Aristotle.

Not too long ago, Google set out on an internal journey using some of its high-performance analytical prowess to figure out how exactly they could extract the best out of their massive workforce. The answer they found, again, was rather simple: teamwork. Codenamed ‘Project Aristotle’, it was an attempt by Google (similar to Project Oxygen, where Google’s People Analytics team studied ‘what makes a great manager’), to discover the secrets behind the workings of effective teams at Google.

The study, conducted by google researchers, involved hundreds of ‘double-blind’ interviews with leaders to get a sense of their understanding of team effectiveness. “The researchers then looked at existing survey data, including over 250 items from the annual employee engagement survey and gDNA, Google’s longitudinal study on work and life, to see what variables might be related to effectiveness.’ Some of the major aspects being studied, in this regard, included individual personality traits, emotional intelligence, skill sets and combined group dynamics along with several demographic variables such as location, level and tenure.

Over hundreds of data variables thus accrued was then subjected to rigorous statistical training models to analyse which factors did indeed have an impact on team effectiveness. The key finding, in this regard, was that it didn’t really matter who was in the team, all that mattered was how the team worked together. The factors, in order of importance:

  • Psychological safety: this primarily refers to the individual perceptions of the degree and consequences of risk-taking within the team – and whether they were safe to take risks without being considered “ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive.”
  • Dependability: Instead of shirking responsibilities, well-functioning teams were more reliable and delivered quality work in time.
  • Structure and clarity: By setting a clear ‘Objectives and Key Results’ (OKRs) metric, team members had much more clarity around job expectations and the process towards fulfilling them.
  • Meaning: Finding a common sense of purpose in either the output or the work itself was found to be crucial to team effectiveness.
  • Impact: The subjective judgement that one’s work was making a difference to the overall functioning of the firm was found to be key to team spirit, and therefore higher productivity.

Source: Google

The Secret to Successful Onboarding

Given the key findings of Project Aristotle, Google released five key onboarding tips for managers that could prove to be mighty beneficial for firms all over:

  1. Match the new hire with a peer buddy;
  2. help the new hire build a social network;
  3. set up employee onboarding check-ins once a month for the new hire’s first six months;
  4. encourage open dialogue;
  5. meet your new hires on their first day.

As with most things great, the key is simplicity. As psychologist Adam Grant opines, “findings don’t have to be earth-shattering to be useful.” Research has, in fact, shown, that it is the most obvious insights that can prove to be the most powerful drivers of change.

These small alterations allow new hires to settle in better, feel more included as part of the team and set up direct short-term goals and strategies that they can understand and implement easily, allowing for higher productivity right from the get-go.

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