Changing of the Guard at Google

By now, many of you may have read that Laszlo Bock is stepping down as head of Google’s people operations, passing the baton to Eileen Naughton, who currently is vice president of sales and operations in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The news was first reported last week by Fortune.

Some of you may recall Bock was HRE’s 2010 HR Executive of the Year—and for good reason. Though only four years at the helm of Google’s HR organization at the time, it was already quite clear that he brought a fresh new way of thinking to the HR world.

As then Google CEO Eric Schmidt pointed out in our October 2010 cover story, “Building a New Breed,” “Innovation and data are at the core of who we are at Google, and Laszlo applies those same principles to HR. He drives cutting-edge people programs and uses rigorous analytics to guide decision-making—all in the name of finding, growing and keeping great Googlers.”

If you’re looking for a single place to go to get at what some of the “cutting-edge people programs” are, I suggest you pick up Bock’s 2015 book: Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead. It’s all there.

Last year, the National Academy of Human Resouces also acknowledged Bock’s extraordinary contribution to the HR profession by naming him a Fellow in the Academy.

Unlike Bock, who held HR posts at General Electric before joining Google, Naughton is the latest example of an “outsider” taking the HR reins of a high-profile business.

Before joining Google, Naughton served as president of the Time Group and vice president of investor relations for Time Warner. She also served as president of Time Inc.

The Fortune story points out that she is one of the highest-rated managers at Google by employees and is “a founding member of Google’s women’s organization, Women@Google, along with former Google exec and current Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.”

Like Bock (who is staying on as an adviser to CEO Sundar Pichai), she will report to Alphabet (Google parent company) CFO Ruth Porat and will oversee HR in its entirety, including diversity and inclusion (which, like at many Silicon Valley companies, continues to be a weak spot for the firm, though one it’s making great strides to address).

Only time will tell, of course, how Naughton will build on Bock’s legacy at Google. Will she be able to view HR through a very different lens, much like Bock? Who knows—maybe her lack of HR experience will be an asset in that regard(?) But this much is certain: She has a tough act to follow.