Visiting GOOGLE - interview with Táňa le Moigne
Táňa le Moigne (Google): The spaces you create for your company should respect the DNA of the people who work in them.
Google was one of the winners of the Meeting Room of the Year competition last year, when their headquarters at Anděl in Prague thoroughly captivated not only the jury. We spoke to Táňou le Moigne, the General Director at Google in the Czech Republic, about how companies should operate.
We’re sitting in your beautiful headquarters. What were the main points you commissioned the architects with?
There are two essential things – the selection of the location and the design of the space. I was really engaged when selecting the location because I personally experienced a disaster in my previous job, when you’re moved from a baroque palace in the centre of Prague to a prefabricated building somewhere in Butovic.
How long did it take you to decide on the new location?
The decision to move a company should be long-term. If a boss does not pay attention, it can happen that in 5 or 10 years their team is somewhere they are not satisfied at. I personally visited 28 locations and the one at Anděl was the last one. Of course, input came from the Google head office, but in principle it was defined by the technological demands, the capacity of the area and a certain standard of quality. This primarily means the technological infrastructure that we are normally accustomed to at Google. We chose the top 3 locations, on which we unequivocally agreed. The reason we chose this particular space was how we felt when we entered it. It’s significantly influenced by light or the possibility to remake the space according to your fantasy. In the end, the location met the needs of the majority of the team.
Could you describe the needs of Googler a bit? I expect that they are different from other traders, engineers or lawyers....
Of course, we build corporate culture and create people with a certain profile here.
The space you create for the company should respect the DNA of the people working there.
The space you build for the company should respect the DNA of the people who work there. Simply put, they should feel good there. Simply put, they should feel good there. In our case, we needed 10 smaller meeting rooms rather than 3 large ones. And there is plenty of room here where people can hole up when they need peace and quiet to think or work.
We don’t have overly large meetings, but rather lots of short ones in small teams. Sometimes you need a less formal environment, other times with the Internet at hand or you don’t want any technology. Since every kind of work calls for a little different environment, I especially wanted a great diversity of spaces and to support the work of small teams.
I see a game room here; does that also come from corporate culture?
Googlers are playful people and many of them have small children. They all like working here, which doesn’t mean they work all of the time. Everyone has a different biorhythm and the working environment is used to offer him or her different options. Someone likes to hole up and read, while someone else enjoys playing table football, working out in our small gym or appreciating a good meal. In the completely original proposal, the gym and dining room in which we are sitting now were missing.
Let’s flesh that out a bit. How does catering work at Google in the Czech Republic?
Personally, I love fine cuisine, and good food is part of the culture at Google. We pay attention to the quality of the ingredients as well as to education. We inform our people what the trace elements are, what enzymes are there etc. You won’t find piles of food here, but high quality ones. Nutrition – everyone knows – has a greater impact on your health than movement, but both are important. My grandfather always said that people eat tons of food and this will show somewhere. So we try to ensure that when our employees eat, they eat well. We aim to teach this to small children who may try my game “To je bašta“ (What Great Food)! :)
Is it difficult to have different standards in catering?
Our partner in catering is the Zátiší Group. Together with Sanjiv (Sanjiv Suri, President & CEO of Zátiší Group), we agree that we don’t only need to shift away from the beer and dumpling culture in this country a bit, but also offer our people the opportunity to eat differently at work, healthier and more diversely. Fortunately, this has worked successfully with the bulk of the credit going to Sanjiv. Thanks to the care provided by Zátiší, we presently have comparable, and possibly better quality meals in some areas than other Google offices. We have also shown that it is not a question of an endless budget- we don’t spend any more than the others do, we just do it differently and we try to be more economical. Uneaten food can be boxed up, stored in the fridge and taken home in the evening. We’re trying to limit our leftovers as much as possible.
And what about the feminine element in the office?
It can definitely be felt, but it’s more about the disposition of the person. Our offices smell nice, the tables aren’t dirty, it’s clean, we grow and eat herbs and we have seasonal floral decorations. As the saying goes, a happy mother, a happy child. I think this also applies to satisfied employees – a good business or a good company.
If you could advise a smaller company that wants to do something with their work environment but is limited by its resources, where would you start?
Ask your people which kind of office they would like to have and what they are willing to do for it. If you involve your team, ask for their opinions and provide them the opportunity to participate in the transformation; it’s amazing what you find out about people. In these cases, the majority of people are interested in these changes and enjoy it. They feel like they have contributed and they may complain only to themselves (laughing). I often say that Google will be how we make it. We’re a large global company but this does not change the fact that we have the possibility to influence a whole range of things locally.
Is cooperation with experts or architects necessary? Or am I mistaken?
Of course; if everyone came up with something different, it wouldn’t work. Also, nobody has an unlimited budget. We tried to be reasonable in our requirements and demands, though we have a table designed by Vitra, which is an expensive piece. But it doesn’t need to be Vitra; it’s about the idea. Our table is a brilliant idea, it’s actually a twisted snake where people may strike conversations, even when there are 20 of them.
Are you able to summarize the company principles on corporate environment in one sentence?
Offices are comprised of what kind of boss there is and what kind of people work there. They reflect the corporate culture of the company like when you enter someone’s home. Every home says something about the single person or family living there, and, likewise, firm’s environment says something about the company. You can’t have “shining, happy people” when they meet daily in dreary and grey spaces.
Thanks for the pleasant interview. Now you’ve got the chance to pass the imaginary relay. Will you send a question about corporate housing to someone else? Who would that be?
I’d ask Honza Řežáb from Socialbakers. Being the boss, what does he do to ensure that people are doing well and when was the last time he asked them? The second question, if I could ask, would be if their corporate culture supports families and healthy lifestyles. In other words, life is not only about work and the values that we believe in,it’s necessary to live; even at work.