Date: Dec 04, 2014
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From a human resources perspective, Western Growers with its 450 employees would not seem to have much in common with Google and the more than 50,000 employees that make up its global workforce.

Yet during the Western Growers 89th Annual Meeting in Las Vegas in early November, an HR professional from each organization discussed their own company-wide compensation program and they surprisingly had some common touch points.  Frank Wagner is director of compensation for Google while Karen Timmins is senior vice president of human resources for Western Growers.

Both companies have written compensation programs with defined pay scales and established ranges for each position.  Both have a clear strategy as to where their employees should rank on the pay scale in relation to competitors: Google wants its employees to be paid at the very high end, while Western Growers takes a middle-of-the-road approach.  Both use hiring committees and objective testing to analyze prospective employees.  And both believe having written job descriptions is an important element for both judging talent and assessing performance.

The task of hiring and paying people at Google is a bit more complicated, especially because of the size of the workforce and the thousands upon thousands of applications it receives on a weekly basis.  Google uses hiring committees in each discipline made up of an HR professional as well as managers in and out of the specific department being hired for.  As candidates move through the hiring process, they are assessed by the team on four different characteristics: cognitive ability, role-related knowledge, leadership tendencies and their “Googliness,” which can be loosely defined as the candidate’s desire to save the world.  Google wants these kinds of people.

Western Growers utilizes the Arbinger style of management and it needs its future employees to buy into that concept.  Timmins briefly described Arbinger as a philosophy for employees to take responsibility for their own actions and how they impact others.  The goal is to eliminate blame from any process and instead have each employee analyze his own responsibility to the outcome.  Timmins said some people do not think this type of system is for them, and that’s fine, but then the person is not cut from the Western Growers cloth.

Both professionals stressed the need to keep close tabs on what the competition is paying.  Google participates in a compensation survey with all of its competitors in the technology field.  Wagner said it is an invaluable tool in determining the firm’s compensation schedule.  While Google wants to be at the top end of the range, it does not want to be out of whack with its colleagues in the tech field.

Timmins touted participation in Western Growers annual compensation and benefits survey.  Over the past handful of years, participation has tripled but she still wants many more firms to participate to further validate the numbers.  The WG survey examines 53 different job classifications from senior management to in-field workers.

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Tom Nassif