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One of the most important executives at Google is stepping down

Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
Culture keeper.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Laszlo Bock, the influential human resources director who helped transform Google’s workforce and culture, is stepping down after a decade in the job. He’s being replaced by Eileen Naughton, Google’s vice president for sales and operations for the UK and Ireland. The news was first reported by Fortune and confirmed by the company via email.

Naughton is a former Time Inc. executive who spent a dozen years at that company, according to her LinkedIn profile. Her posts included general manager of Fortune. She joined Google in 2006 after leaving Time in 2005.

Bock, who joined Google from General Electric, is the rare HR chief whose influence was felt beyond his company’s walls. His 2015 book, Work Rules! Insights From Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, can be found on the shelves at Harvard Business School, and Google’s policies have shaped Silicon Valley’s fast-and-loose environment.

Bock changed hiring at Google from a clunky, arduous process that relied on gimmicks like math puzzles on billboards, to a smooth engine that allowed the company to grow to nearly 65,000 employees in less than two decades.  He helped usher in employee friendly policies like free meals and shuttle buses, and introduced take-your-parents-to-work days. Bock argued that paying for outside training is a waste of money, against “stacking” employee reviews, and for breaking up the salary structure to pay superstars more than their peers.

Bock viewed Google’s employees as its most important resource, and constantly tinkered with working conditions to find the most productive conditions. Google spent years investigating what makes teams work, and tried to devise the perfect mix of personalities and expertise. It turned out the company’s operating theory about how to engineer effective teams was “dead wrong,” according to one of the researchers, and the company shared its finding that trust and clear, shared goals were the most important qualities.

Despite his efforts, Google isn’t a worker’s paradise, and as it has grown, it’s become bogged down by the bureaucracy and politics that bedevil all big organizations. Past and present employees took to Quora recently to vent their frustrations about incompetent managers and low morale.

Bock will reportedly continue to advise Google while consulting with other companies. Presumably he’ll have time for more ambitious projects, as well. In an interview with Quartz last year, he discussed his goal of ending unemployment:

“A lot of unemployment evolves from information asymmetry, meaning I have a taxonomy of skills and abilities that are hard to articulate, and resumes don’t do a good job of capturing them. Employers have a set of jobs, but are terrible at both articulating what they need, and actually filtering candidates.
If you can somehow bridge that information gap, and better match people with jobs, in the short term you can get a lot of people jobs that don’t have them. But in the medium term, you can do really interesting things. If you’re a welder in Detroit, we can say you should go to nursing school and move to Atlanta, and this is the program you should go to, because this nursing school is correlated with people getting jobs. And Atlanta has the most growth in that area.
It’s very interesting stuff. But that’s all a little in the future.”

Stay tuned.

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