One of Google CEO Larry Page's first moves will likely come back to bite him: Tying up to 25% of every employee's bonus to how well the company does in social networking. Considering the company's history of social networking failures, he may be faced with some very unhappy engineers.
Last week, Page sent out a confidential memo to the entire company titled "2011 Bonus Multiplier," according to Business Insider. That memo says that employee's bonuses could be cut by up to 25% if Google doesn't do well in social networking, and be up to 25% greater if Google does well in social networking.
Given Google's failures in social networking, I'd bet that bonuses will shrink, not expand. Remember Google Wave? It was an exceedingly confusing social networking tool that seemed to have no purpose. Development ended on it this past summer.
And Google Buzz, when it was introduced, caused the wrong kind of buzz for Google --- without telling you, it shared information about you with other Buzz users.
Then there was the purchase of the social networking company Jaiku back in 2007. Where is it now? Gone, forgotten, and released as open source.
There have been a lot of other failures as well. That's not the fault of individual engineers --- it's more likely the result of management strategy. Who gave the green light to the incomprehensible Wave? Who decided to buy Jaiku? Who didn't consider the privacy issues when Buzz was released? Managers not employees. But employees will suffer if Google doesn't succeed in social networking.
It's understandable that Page wants to get employees to focus on social networking, but his plan isn't the way to do it. Engineering talent is hard to come by, and Google, like every other company, has to work hard to recruit it. Money is a big motivator as well as a big de-motivator. There's a reasonable chance Google won't succeed in social networking, at least in the short term. That means less money for engineers...which is the last thing that Google needs.