What Makes The Perfect Team: A Google Study

Google regularly gathers extensive data from their employees from engagement surveys to seating patterns at the cafeteria. This data gave Google powerful insight into how to create the best possible working environments for their many employees. When they initiated Project Aristotle to find out what made the perfect team, the data was confounding. Despite extensive analysis of groupings of people, there was no correlation between the mix or personality types, backgrounds or skills across the top performing teams.

It was when they stumbled upon research into the psychodynamics of teams that everything fell into place. Out of the 180 teams surveyed around the world, the Google teams that outperformed the rest exhibited a strong team culture of psychological safety. This meant that interpersonal trust, mutual respect, transparency and openness among team members created a high-achieving culture. In a New York times article on the study, Charles Duhugg observed:

‘’What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘work face’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘psychologically safe’, we must know that we can be free enough sometimes to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labour.’’

It takes confidence to be transparent, and empathy to understand and act upon the needs of colleagues, peers and whole teams. These are the basic requirements of psychological safety and, as Google would argue, the foundations of a high performing team.

Empathy and Engagement Stats

  • Employees who believe their managers can name their strengths are 71% more likely to feel engaged and energized (The VIA Institute on Character)
  • Teams that address engagement needs in their everyday work outperform bottom teams by an average 20% in sales and 10% in customer engagement (Gallup)
  • Teams led by managers who focus on their weaknesses are 26% less likely to be engaged (Gallup)
  • Customer retention rates are 18% higher on average when employees are highly engaged (Cvent)
  • The attrition rate of disengaged employees is 12xhigher than highly engaged employees over the period of a year (Glint)
  • Business units with high employee engagement have 28% less internal theft and 21% higher productivity (Gallup)
  • Highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in
  • productivity (Gallup)
  • Companies that increase their number of talented managers and double the rate of engaged employees achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition (Gallup)
  • Cost of replacing high-level or highly specialized employees: 400% of their annual salary (ERE Media)
  • Cost of replacing mid-level employees: 150% of their annual salary (ERE Media)