There were plenty of growing pains for the g2g team as they started and scaled the program at Google. But so long as lessons were learned and shared, the team continued to improve the program.
Remove barriers to entry. When g2g first started, in the name of quality, there were tons of hoops that volunteers needed to jump through in order to participate. The process could take up to a year to complete, which is too long for any organization. The g2g program’s growth wasn’t keeping up with Google’s expanding needs, so the team decided to run an uncontrolled “experiment.” All general prerequisites to participate in g2g were removed, and instead instituted program-specific requirements. After this change, facilitator participation doubled in just six months, and quality remained high. In the years since, the program has removed even more barriers and given volunteers more support resources to bring in more facilitators and help them build their skills, and our quality has continued to rise over time. Trust people to do great work and create a quality assurance process that assumes people will do well, rather than assuming they will fail.
Secure leadership support, not just permission. When g2g first started, the team focused on making sure volunteers had permission from their managers to participate, rather than active support to make their participation successful. This was a major mistake. Permission and support are two very different things, and it’s taken years to shift the organization to a culture of support for volunteer programs like this. We started providing more data to managers and leaders, showing the individual and organizational value of having employees teach. Now, instead of just allowing their reports to participate as long as it “doesn’t interfere with their core job,” Google managers are encouraging participation and making space in employees’ workloads for activities that benefit the larger organization. Take the time to embed these concepts into manager training and expectations before scaling too far.