How Google does learning and development

September 4, 2020

In the rapidly-evolving world of tech, there are a handful of companies that stand out as being seemingly untouchable.

Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook are a few of the most recognisable names on the planet. And whilst it’s hard to argue that their products are anything less than innovative, it’s easy to take their success for granted.

There’s no shortage of challengers, who step up to the task of knocking them off the top – equipped with colossal budgets and increasingly innovative products.

So, how have they managed to maintain this coveted status for so long?

It’s pretty well documented that their teams are one of the driving forces behind their continued success. Both in how they assemble the best teams money can buy, and how they nurture their employees with a unique company culture.

In this mini-series, we’re taking a look at how these companies approach learning and development – to see if there’s anything we can learn.

First up is Google, who dominate almost every sector they operate in. 

In their arsenal, they’ve got Gmail, Youtube, Google Maps and various products which all lead their respective fields (we won’t mention Google Plus.) Their influence extends way beyond their search engine, which is the most visited website on the planet.

You’ve probably already heard that Google has a unique culture. Photos from inside their headquarters look more like a playground than a place of work. 

But, it’s not just office design that they do differently. The way they approach learning and development is unique, too.


The basis of training and development at Google focuses on employee-to-employee interaction. Up to 80% of all learning activity is delivered this way.

They call it g2g (Googler-to-Googler), and it’s helped create a culture that places a high value on learning. 

Firstly, they acknowledge their employees’ right to learn and allow them to do so whilst on the job, as well as encouraging them to give back to their colleagues in equal measure.

It’s no secret that Google employs some of the most sought-after professionals in the world. That means they have the most knowledgeable specialists in the industry, and they encourage them to share their knowledge. They say “your own employees are perhaps the most qualified instructors available to you.” 

Micro-learning – The Whisper Course

They focus on micro-learning, and it’s not something they’re secretive about. Their training content is delivered in small, digestible chunks directly from peers, rather than a central training team.

With that in mind, they encourage the use of “Whisper Courses” which are essentially bite-sized lessons designed to be easy to digest. The approach is based on the science of memory retention and the fact that we can process information much easier in like this. 

They were designed to remind managers “of the importance of regularly showing genuine and explicit appreciation for their team members.” 

Here’s an example of a Whisper Course in practise.

Is it successful?

Google’s position as one of the world’s leading companies is testament to the success of their training and development methods. 

Further, re:Work, a website where Google share their ideas and innovations describes the success of this method of micro-learning “Ratings for this particular lesson on appreciation were 98% favorable, and an internal analysis of retrospective pre-test survey responses spanning one year indicate a 33% increase in favorable responses to the statement “I look for ways to acknowledge and appreciate each of my team members, and make sure to communicate this in a timely manner.” 

To date, approximately 95% of participants who have rated the course indicate that they would recommend this whisper course to fellow Googlers.”

Many of the principles of micro-learning go against how we traditionally view corporate learning; however, it’s this type of innovation that we consistently see within some of the most successful businesses in the world.

If you’re interested in implementing a similar training method within your own company, Moodle is the perfect system to help organise and deliver your eLearning content,  – be that micro-learning or otherwise. We offer a wide range of Moodle services, which are specifically designed to help businesses transform their learning programmes. 

Get in touch with us to see how we can help.

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