Adam Green sprinkles his lecture on data visualization with class participation. “Does anyone read sheet music?” he asks before showing a video that re-imagines music notation in a more visual way. “Anyone ever in the military?” he asks before explaining that branch of government’s preference for white type on black backgrounds. And then, finally, after covering the basics, he gets to the point: "What would you do to make this graph more clear?"
His 19 students take notes, having pushed the electronic devices they arrived with toward the center of the table. Most are relatively young, and, except for the woman wearing Google Glass, this could easily be a college classroom.
But it’s not. This is a New York City Google conference room. Everyone in it is a Google employee, including Green himself. Most days, he works in Toronto managing Google’s relationships with ad agencies.
On days like today, however, he participates in a program called “Googler to Googler,” which places employees from across departments into teaching roles that would otherwise be filled by the HR department (or rather, as Google calls it, “People Operations”). Green’s class is part of the Google core curriculum, which includes courses on management, orientation, and skills such as public speaking. Other classes taught Googler to Googler--everything from kickboxing to parenting--were initiated and designed by an employee.
An early Google engineer named Chade-Meng Tan, for instance, started a popular class on mindfulness that became a new job (title: Jolly Good Fellow) and a book (title:Search Inside Yourself). A class called “Creative Skills for Innovation” became a process for design thinking across the company. In 2013, about 2,000 Googlers have so far volunteered to teach classes through the program, and together they will teach about 55% of the company’s official classes.
It's not about money. Google feeds 37,000 employees three gourmet meals a day. It can certainly afford to hire teachers. The company thinks it’s a good business idea to have employees teach employees. Here's why:
Promoting A Culture Of Learning
Telling your employees that you want them to learn is different than asking them to promote that culture themselves. Giving employees teaching roles, says Google's head of people operations, Karen May, makes learning part of the way employees work together rather than something HR is making them do. Learn more about advantages of Googler to Googler program from this FastCompany.com article.