Google employees are becoming unhappy with pay, promotions and execution, survey results show

Key Points
  • In the annual "Googlegeist" survey, Google workers gave their employer particularly poor marks on how compensation compares to pay for similar jobs at other companies.
  • Employees also say they face growing bureaucracy that slows them down, survey results showed.
  • CEO Sundar Pichai received a favorable rating of 84% of from employees, but he did worse when it came to execution.
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gestures during a session at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

As Google prepares to bring most employees back to the office, the company is facing a workforce that's increasingly unhappy when it comes to key issues such as compensation and an ability to meet career goals.

Google's annual employee surveys, internally called "Googlegeist," show that a growing number of staffers don't view their pay packages as fair or competitive with what they could make in a similar role elsewhere. They are also questioning their employer's ability to execute.

The surveys were taken in January and released to employees last week. CNBC viewed results from the company overall as well as individual groups such as cloud, search and ads. The lowest scores across the board were in compensation and execution. The highest scores were in Google's mission and values.

CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in a brief email announcing the results that the survey is "one of the most important ways" the company measures how much people like working at the company.

Retention and employee satisfaction are more critical than ever to Google and others in the tech sector as record numbers of people in the U.S. are quitting their jobs and exploring new opportunities. Google is also about to begin bringing most of its employees back to physical offices at least three days a week. After two years of remote work because of the pandemic, Google's reopening is scheduled for April 4.

Unsatisfied with promotions

Only 46% of survey respondents said their total compensation is competitive compared to similar jobs at other companies. That's down 12 points from a year earlier. A modestly higher number, 56%, say their pay is "fair and equitable," a drop of eight points from the prior year. Some 64% of employees said their performance is reflected in their pay, down three points.

Business Insider previously reported some of the compensation survey results.

"We know that our employees have many choices about where they work, so we ensure they are very well compensated," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "That's why we've always provided top of market compensation across salary, equity, leave, and a suite of benefits. Getting employee feedback is important, and we'll continue to ensure we pay competitively everywhere our employees work and help them grow their careers at Google." 

Pay is a matter that Google executives have been forced to address of late. At an all-hands meeting in December, Frank Wagner, Google's vice president of compensation, responded to concerns about rising inflation and whether the company would provide any sort of increase. Wagner said Google would not implement a blanket raise to match inflation.

Meanwhile, revenue has continued to surge, executives have received pay bumps and the stock price hit a record in November before falling with the rest of the market.

Pichai still received a favorable rating of 86% from employees in the survey. But some of the more specific questions about Pichai resulted in less-flattering responses. For his vision of what the company can be, 74% said Pichai inspires them, while the same number said his "decisions and strategies enable Google to do excellent work."

Prabhakar Raghavan, who oversees key businesses including search, ads and commerce, noted in an internal email that 61% of employees see themselves as able to meet career goals at the company and said, "there's work to be done."

"We need to make sure that you succeed to your full abilities and keep learning and growing in your careers here," he wrote.

Highlighting a 7% dip in views about Google's execution, Raghavan said "that means we need to bring more attention to busting bureaucracy and ensuring we can act quickly when needed."

Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, speaks at a cloud computing conference held by the company in 2019.
Michael Short | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In the cloud division, CEO Thomas Kurian also noted a decline in execution, and said in an email that there still remains "barriers to decision-making."

Kurian's unit faces issues similar to the parent company's. Only 54% of employees in the cloud group say the promotional process is fair, a decline of two points from a year ago. Kurian said there's "a lack of criteria for promotions" and "lack of transparency."

Raghavan and Pichai each received favorability ratings of 84%.

Employees happy with products, mission

Survey results showed employees are pleased with Google's ability to deliver on the mission "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." 

Google's mission received a 90% rating, while values came in at 85%.

"It's heartening to see that our org takes a lot of pride in our mission, managers and helpfulness of our products," Raghavan wrote. "These continue to be foundational to our work and our culture."

Additionally, 96% of employees under Raghavan agreed that Google's products are helpful to people in their everyday lives.

Diversity and inclusion ratings were mixed. The company received favorable marks between 82% and 90% when it came to "belonging" and employees feeling their opinions are valued. 

Pichai said the company progressed in areas including employee "well-being" and "culture of respect."

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