Google is inviting teams of employees to pitch business plans in their newly revealed incubator scheme. Successful teams will win the opportunity to work on their idea full-time for a year and then pitch for the creation of a new company, which Google will invest in.
Not unlike what Alan Sugar has been doing for years with the Apprentice, then? Boosting his already hefty wealth through the creativity and dedication of people desperate to get a foot up the start-up ladder.
But for Google, the driving force is slightly different. They have introduced the scheme to stop their best people leaving Google to set up on their own. They’ve had their fingers burnt from this in the past, in fact just recently their head of Advanced Technologies and Projects group left to join Facebook.
On the face of it Google’s incubator scheme seems to provides a win-win situation for all parties, but is it really? Or is the bias more on the side of Google? A bit like parents who can’t let go of their offspring and buy a flat for them to live in, pay for their bills and then insist they come round for Sunday lunch each week. Is giving employees the opportunity to be entrepreneurs in the confines of the Google mansion actually giving these rising stars their nirvana, or is this going to make the true entrepreneurs feel claustrophobic and still seek an opportunity to venture out truly on their own?
Retention is a global issue, but retention of top performers is an even greater one. Our latest HR Reflection survey showed that over a quarter of organisations across the world say they are concerned they aren’t retaining their best people. So Google has a point. Finding a way to stop the talent seeping out an organisation is preventative solution for the great skills gap challenge.
But if you read about what attracts and retains people, career opportunity is not the be all and end all. Flexible work practices are becoming an increasingly important consideration, particularly for the top performers. A survey of knowledge-based workers from the UK, US and Germany conducted by Unify found that half would consider changing to freelance or on-demand model of work over regular employment if it were offered. And PeoplePerHour, the online freelance platform, predicts that 50% of UK workers will be working for themselves by 2020.
So Google’s incubator may appear to be a nice bit of team spirit but in reality, with the trends in working practice heading in the direction of self-employment, perhaps all Google will be incubating are the wanabe entrepreneurs rather than the real McCoy.