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Not the free cars, not the free food ... but Google is named best place to work in the US

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

January 19, 2012 | 3 min read

Google has been named by Fortune magazine as the best place to work in America. In a year when it hired about 7,000 people, its fastest growth ever, it went from fourth to first on the list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Google: Best place to work

Fortune wrote, "Employees rave about their mission, the culture, and the famous perks of the Plex: bocce courts, a bowling alley, eyebrow shaping (for a fee) in the New York office."

Google built a new 40,000 square-foot park at its Mountain View headquarters in California last year. There's a fleet of electric cars - Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs - that Googlers can use to go shopping at lunch time.

But Google says it won the Best Place to Work title NOT because it focuses on perks, but because it focuses on people.

"What people often focus on are the flashy, shiny things, like the massages and the food, which are really, really important to us as benefits," said Laszlo Bock, Google's senior VP for people operations. "But they are not the real story about what makes our culture work."

The real story, according to Bock and other Google executives, is that Google treats employees as the owners of the company, that it has an ethic of corporate transparency that allows rank and file workers to question and expect honest answers from their superiors.

Even CEO Larry Page can be quizzed at the company's weekly meeting for "all hands". The company tries to empower employees to feel that everyone can have an impact, both internally, and in the larger world.

Google offers free food, full benefits for the partners of lesbian, gay and transgender workers, and 18-week maternity leaves at 100 percent pay. The maternity leave policy, extended by six paid weeks in 2007, results in a better retention rate for female workers.

Google last year gave a 10 percent rise across the board to all its employees and its shares are on the rise again, climbing more than 20 percent in the second half of last year.

Page told Fortune, "My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they're having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society. As a world, we're doing a better job of that. My goal is for Google to lead, not follow that."

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