Google's social incentive for staff meant to calm fears

CEO's move to peg portion of employee bonus this year to company's social business performance likely aimed at reassuring investors about its social media ambitions than to incentivize employees, analyst says.

Google CEO Larry Page's decision to reward employees based on the company's social media performance this year is likely aimed at reassuring investors and market watchers that the Internet giant is "serious" about social media, rather than a move to incentivize its workers.

Greenlight Research COO Andreas Pouros noted that since most Google employees are not directly employed in its social business division, they will not have direct control over the 25 percent of staff bonus which will be determined by how the company fares in the social media arena this year.

"Perhaps the reason for the bonus [announcement] is not necessarily to directly incentivize staff, but more to reassure investors that Google is serious about social media and, at the same time, create social momentum behind Page's 're-ignition' of its business," Pouros told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.

Adeel Najam, senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific's ICT practice, however, believes the move will spur employees to do more to advance Google's social media ambitions.

He said that while it is not the "main solution" to promoting the search giant's social media plans, it is a "good initiative" nonetheless. "Employees will work together in making [social media] a priority and improve the company's offering," Najam added.

Both were responding to reports that detailed Page's internal restructuring plans after he assumed the CEO mantle from Eric Schmidt on Apr. 4.

Tech news site Business Insider broke the news regarding the performance-based bonus, while news wire Reuters reported that Page had streamlined decision-making in six key product groups. The internal reorganization means that social networking chief Vic Gundotra, Android development honcho Andy Rubin, and Chrome senior vice president Sundar Pichai, among others, will have a direct reporting line to Page, thus, eliminating time-consuming red-tape, the report noted.

With regard to the company's reorganization, Pouros said the news was underwhelming compared to the decision earlier this year to reinstate Page as CEO of Google.

He noted that the change at the helm will largely impact the company' social media play, not the search arena where its market leadership is clear.

"Page's ascension is about Google upping its game in social and the founder taking the bull by the horns," the Greenlight executive explained. "While the reorganization decentralizes the senior vice president's responsibilities, the centralization now ultimately is on the CEO."

Pouros noted that this move is important if Google were to unseat Facebook in the social media arena, as it may likely "require a force far greater than a product senior vice president".

Najam, meanwhile, opined that the leadership reorganization was aimed at "invigorating innovation" across its key businesses, including social, Chrome and YouTube. That said, he added that the focus Page is showering on its social media business might benefit Google eventually, if he aggressively executes his plans to improve the company's offerings.

He also gave a vote of confidence to Page's reappointment as CEO. "We believe Page will take further initiatives as Google needs to drive innovation in its lucrative business lines for long-term success."

Najam suggested that Google looks at blending its existing services, for example, by using the Android mobile operating system to "offer a social experience" to users.

When contacted, Google declined to comment.


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