Saturday, March 10, 2007

Google Bus System

Google is running its own bus system. Very interesting stuff. Of course most companies would never even think of doing this, but if they did, fleetingly, entertain the suggestion, they would instantly dismiss it as having nothing to do with their core competency. Google's ceaseless innovation mindset, not confined to products, but extending to process and culture, reminds me of Wal-Mart and Toyota.
As much as it is a generous fringe benefit or an environmental gesture, the shuttle program is a competitive weapon in Silicon Valley’s recruiting wars.
A secondary advantage a Google has is the "Disney effect" of providing a pleasant, upscale, "people like us" ridership, thereby mitigating one hidden objection to mass transit. No risk of having gun-toting, anti-social co-riders.
When I was at Otis Elevator 20 years ago (1988), it hadn't been so long since full-time working mothers had become a totally mainstream phenomenon. Child-care was a big issue. I remember at some kind of employee HR meeting, someone noted that it would be really convenient to have on-site child care. HR, in a somewhat typically condescending way, responded by first agreeing, in a pseudo-empathetic way, that yes, that would be nice; but, "you know, we're just not in the child-care business", so it can't be done. Within 5 years, on-site day-care started to become somewhat common. Not run by the employers, but by co-located out-sourcers.

EXCERPT:
In Silicon Valley, a region known for some of the worst traffic in the nation, Google, the Internet search engine giant and online advertising behemoth, has turned itself into Google, the mass transit operator. Its aim is to make commuting painless for its pampered workers — and keep attracting new recruits in a notoriously competitive market for top engineering talent.
And Google can get a couple of extra hours of work out of employees who would otherwise be behind the wheel of a car.
The company now ferries about 1,200 employees to and from Google daily — nearly one-fourth of its local work force — aboard 32 shuttle buses equipped with comfortable leather seats and wireless Internet access.
...
As much as it is a generous fringe benefit or an environmental gesture, the shuttle program is a competitive weapon in Silicon Valley’s recruiting wars.

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