Google Analytics in terms of human resources, company staffing and employee retention is making its round through HR departments as the top-notch, innovative method for HR department to make predictions about Google applicants and their potential to stay at Google. Looking at the list of findings, you will see that they deal with individual employees and managers. The real innovation that Google provides, as well as companies like GlaxcoSmithKline, Pixar, American Express, is redesigning office space to encourage employee collaboration for on-site and off-site employees.
The foremost researcher and writer on this topic is Dr. Kimberly Elsbach of UC Davis Graduate School of Management. in her article “It’s More Than a Desk: Working Smarter Through Leveraged Office Design,” published in California Management Review, lays out systematic ways managers can design office space to inspire group membership, improve collaboration and encourage group problem solving among their employees. Implementing office designs with collaborative as well as individual work spaces enhance employees’ productivity, loyalty and sense of place. Her research shows that open office spaces or offices spaces designed to increase collaboration affect the culture and identities of the organizations and workers. Going back to Google, Google determined that having a common cafeteria line which requires four-minutes to go through, increases collaboration, not to mention the laundry spaces and game rooms that their office buildings also have. Open office design lowers perception of organizational hierarchy because employees are not assigned office space according to their “worth” to the business or their salary levels. Aesthetic design of the workplace positively increases cognitive and emotional responses, making workers more creative in collaborative products.
In her HBR article, Anat Lechner, Clinical Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at NYU Stern, shows three types of spaces companies need to include in designing work spaces: “I work”, “You and I work” and “We work. The “I work” spaces are for times when employees need a space for concentration and focus. The “You and I work” spaces are for collaboration between two to three people. The “We work” spaces should have enough room for four to eight employees (the optimum number for collaborative projects) as well as technical resources which help them to communicate with multi-location and multi-technology team members. She also states that non-office space design features such as free-flowing hallways, large sitting areas throughout the building and communal eating spaces (besides the four minute lunch line idea, Goggle also only uses long tables, eight to ten feet, so that employees will interact more and with a more diverse group) should be included in interior designs.
You can view pictures of interior designs which Skype, Google and Horizon Media use to enhance collaboration at http://myturnstone.com/blog/21-inspirational-collaborative-workspaces/ or http://www.huddle.com/blog/good-office-design/ .
Design space as a human resource and productivity tool is usually not on the radar of upper-management. Google analyzes the effect of open designs and found that interior design humanly impacts work place culture. I would argue that it is more valuable than predicting the humans that make good resources for the company.