Popular Google products like Gmail grew out of 20 percent time, for instance. But engineers say they have been encouraged to build fewer new products and focus on building improvements to existing ones, like the terrain layer on Google Maps.
“There’s a lot of these cool features that are very hidden, and a lot of people worked very hard on them and they were kind of sad that they spent a year of their life on something that gets 0.1 percent usage,” said another product manager who is considering leaving for a start-up.
Part of Google’s problem is that the best engineers are often the ones with the most entrepreneurial thirst. Google loaded up on that type in its early hiring.
Some of those go-getters now want to leave as they become frustrated with the processes and procedures. Josh McFarland, a former Google product manager who left last year and started TellApart, which helps retailers advertise online, said he knew it was time to leave as the number of people he had to copy on e-mail messages ballooned.
“I think that there is a class of person who is able to walk away from this relatively easy, consistent money because they are so dissatisfied with the processes of a big company,” he said.
For others, it is about making more money elsewhere. Start-ups have a riskier and potentially more rewarding lure: shares in a company before an initial public offering.
Google, which has always been generous with salary, stock options and benefits like massages, dry cleaning and free food, is going a step further to keep employees happy. This month, Google gave every employee a raise of 10 percent or more. The motivation was, in part, the “war for talent,” Mr. Schmidt said. People who have other job offers have been persuaded to stay with seven-figure bonuses. Google says 80 percent of people who get a counteroffer stay put.
Of those who leave, employees going to Facebook get the most attention. According to résumés posted on LinkedIn, 142 of Facebook’s 1,700 employees came from Google. Mr. Schmidt dismissed the idea that Facebook was poaching Google’s best people, saying, “We hire more people in a week than go to Facebook in its lifetime.”
Despite Google’s growing pains, it remains remarkably innovative when it wants to be. Last month, for instance, it unveiled robotic cars that drive themselves. And like many big companies, Google has been acquiring new technologies, like Android, instead of inventing them.
While he worries about the consequences of becoming a big company, “People are dying to come here and they’re staying,” Mr. Schmidt said. “So I guess they’re putting up with the complexity.”