CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet

Google finds pay is a pain point

March 16, 2022, 10:36 AM UTC

Good morning,

Have you ever heard of “Googlegeist?”

The name sounds like a scary movie. But it’s actually the internal name of Google’s annual survey. It gauges employee satisfaction on compensation, leadership, and company culture, among other factors. I’m sure some of the latest findings have frightened executive leadership.

Many employees aren’t impressed by what the tech giant is paying. Less than half (46%) of employees said their pay is competitive, a decrease of 12 points from last year. The survey results obtained by CNBC also found that just over half (56%) said their pay is “fair and equitable,” which is a decrease in eight points from the prior year. 

But 64% of respondents said performance reflects their pay. However, that’s down three points from last year’s survey. And, when it comes to the cloud group, just 54% of employees said the promotional process is fair, a decline of two points from a year ago.

“We’ve always provided top of market compensation across salary, equity, leave, and a suite of benefits,” A Google representative told Fortune in a statement“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.”

Attracting and retaining talent is a priority for the company that is hiring—massively. Alphabet “added nearly 6,500 people in the fourth quarter, and the majority of hires are for technical roles,” Ruth Porat, CFO of Google and its parent company Alphabet, said on the Q4 2021 earnings call last month. And a “strong pace of hiring” is expected across Alphabet this year, Porat said.

So, what should you do when your employees are unhappy about pay? 

“Every organization should have a mature approach to compensation and total rewards that they feel confident about,” Lexi Clarke, senior director of human resources at Payscale, told me. But only about half of organizations do so, according to Payscale’s 2022 Compensation Best Practices Report, she says. 

Clarke offers the following advice: “The first question to ask is why are employees unhappy with their pay? Are we talking about a few employees who feel they can do better on the open market? Or is your whole organization suffering from a systemic issue? Are your employees paid fairly to market but are still unhappy? Or are your employees actually paid below market? How do you know? What salary data are you using?”

“Often though, when employees are unhappy with their pay it comes down to a misunderstanding around how pay is determined and a lack of pay communications,” Clarke explains. “You need to be able to articulate your policies clearly and train managers on how to have compensation conversations as part of a bigger commitment to pay transparency.”

Vicki Salemi, a Monster career expert, says in this current war for talent, “employers should focus on what employees are looking for and fair compensation is among the top of the list.” The top three aspects that candidates want from their employer, according to Monster’s annual global Future of Work report: fair compensation (40%), health care benefits (40%), and financial compensation beyond salary (36%).  

“Across the board, compensation is a top concern,” Salemi says. “However, health benefits and flexibility are also top of mind. If employers aren’t able to boost salaries, consider offering more flexibility such as more PTO. Another thing to consider is mental health days to provide workers with more time while simultaneously offering wellness benefits.” Salemi also notes that perks like, “ping pong tables, free lunches and reimbursement for commutes” are nowhere on the top list of what candidates want.

Should companies cut back on such perks? “Cutting back on perks can be an advantageous strategy for some organizations that are in financial distress,” Clarke says. However, “what you don’t want to do is curb the differentiators for your culture where there is no great advantage to doing so.”

And speaking of company culture, employees gave Google’s mission a 90% rating, and an 85% rating for values. Employees gave CEO Sundar Pichai a favorability rating of 86%. So, amidst the fright, Googlegeist did have some bright spots. 

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

Did you get a good night's sleep? If not, stress may be a factor. Sleep company Casper and Gallup released the State of Sleep in America 2022 Report. The study surveyed over 3,000 adults in the U.S. ages 18 and over. About 45% of respondents who had difficulty sleeping said they experienced stress during the day. The report also found that age is a key factor in the relationship between disruption of sleep and stress. About 37% of respondents ages 50 to 64, and 24% who are 65 and older, said they experienced stress during the day leading to a restless night. In comparison, respondents ages 18 to 29 (64%), 30 to 39 (57%) and 40 to 49 (52%) said they experienced stress during the day, resulting in a poor night of sleep, according to the report.

Courtesy of Casper and Gallup from the report, The State of Sleep in America

Going deeper

In the new Fortune report, 5 energy stocks to buy now that will benefit as Europe tries to ditch Russian oil,  Shawn Tully writes: "The EU pledged to reduce its consumption of Russian natural gas by two-thirds, from 150 billion cubic meters per year to 50 bcm/year, on the fastest of fast tracks by the end of 2022. By the close of the decade, the goal is lowering Russian imports to zero." Tully shares five companies that offer exposure to an array of size, risk profiles, and approaches to capitalizing on the liquefied natural gas (LNG) phenomenon.


Deborah A. O’Connor was named EVP and CFO at ACCO Brands Corporation (NYSE: ACCO), effective April 4. O’Connor was president and CFO at True Value Company from 2020 to 2021, having previously served as its SVP and CFO from 2015 to 2020. Prior to joining True Value Company, she served in various executive capacities at Office Max/Office Depot, including SVP of integration at Office Depot, interim CFO at OfficeMax, and SVP and chief accounting officer at OfficeMax. Prior to OfficeMax, O’Connor served in senior financial roles at ServiceMaster.

Christine Laurens was named CFO at Spencer Stuart, a global executive search and leadership advisory firm. Laurens succeeds Valerie Harper, who is now Head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific for Spencer Stuart. Laurens joins the company after more than two decades at Kearney, the global management consulting firm, where she most recently served as CFO. Laurens joined Kearney in 2002 as Southwest European finance director in Paris, subsequently assuming increasing levels of EMEA finance leadership at the firm before being named CFP. Previously, she was CFO of Keyrus. Laurens also served as managing director of the French subsidiary of


"We must make protecting and promoting health every bit as essential as environmental, social, and governance principles for any business looking to win favor with customers, investors, and employees. It’s time to add an H to ESG."

—Patricia Geli, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Michelle A. Williams, the Dean of the Faculty at Harvard Chan School, wrote in a new Fortune opinion piece that a focus on public health should be similar to notable efforts in ESG.

This is the web version of CFO Daily, a newsletter on the trends and individuals shaping corporate finance. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.