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The Water Cooler

A blog of fresh ideas and findings from organizational leaders and researchers on how they’re making work better, shared regularly.

John Doerr on why HR matters

John Doerr on why HR matters
Having spotted and mentored the founders of many hugely successful companies, including Google, John Doerr knows that organizations can’t wait when it comes to “the people stuff.” Doerr explains that hiring the right people is the most important thing any leader does.

John Doerr, chair of the venture capital firm KPCB, has been a board member of Google (now Alphabet) and mentor to Google’s founders since the company’s beginning. Doerr sat down with Prasad Setty, Google’s VP of People Analytics & Compensation, to discuss why a company’s culture and people cannot take a back seat to business execution. “As early as possible, try to get clear on what the culture is of your organization because,” Doerr says. “Culture will allow your team, your people, yourself to make the right decisions more often and faster.”

But once you’ve made decisions about your business and your people, how do you know if they were indeed right? What metrics do you use? Doerr introduced the goal-setting method of OKRs (“Objectives and Key Results) to Google which helps leaders communicate company-wide what’s important, what progress is expected, and how it will be evaluated. OKRs are used across Google, including within People Operations, to set big goals and also ensure steady, incremental progress. “To have a People Operation that's not metrics-driven is to have a sloppy People Operation, an ineffective People Operation, a People Operation where we're not clear on what really matters,” Doerr cautions.

Doerr emphasizes that the mandate and purview of a People Operations team should not be understated. “The People Ops leadership, function, and agenda holds the soul of an organization in its hands,” Doerr warned. “Cherishing that culture, investing in it, celebrating it is what allows organizations, teams, and individuals to do amazing things, and I can't imagine a higher calling in life than to do that with our work.”

This blog is part of our re:Work series celebrating the millions of small and mighty businesses who are innovating and driving the economy around the world. Read more: