Google's secretive "bench" program to keep top engineers at the company

Google has 55,000 active employees working for the search and advertising giant, and a lot of these engineers and developers are not upstart kids fresh from a programming course at university, but veterans in the field.

The company has an uncanny ability at keeping veterans in play, even when it doesn’t need their help. Normally, once an employee’s role is no longer needed, the contract is terminated and the two parties go their separate ways, but Google “benches” veteran talent until a time when they’re needed again.

"It helps keep people off the market," said a former Google exec to BI. "It helps keep the institutional knowledge if you need them back for any reason. And it costs so little to retain these people rather than to have them leave and start the next Facebook."

Google still has over a third of the original 100 employees at the company, working in various roles across the search giant. Several top executives throughout the two decades have taken breaks of 12 to 24 months, to figure out what they want to do next and how to fit into Google’s new world.

Google has a tendency to hire new talent and allow them to quickly rise throughout the ranks, but it also maintains people like Sundar Pichai, Eric Schmidt and Susan Wojcicki are of huge importance to the continued growth of the company, offering them a large salary and plenty of incentives to stay.

When Sundar Pichai had his name in the ring for Microsoft CEO, he quickly was named head of all Google services, replacing a few prominent faces in the company to streamline the business for CEO Larry Page.

Page is keen to retain all talent and has been pivotal in setting veterans in new places around the company. This creates an active workplace environment for Google, where an employee can go from improving YouTube’s runtime to working on internet balloons to connect the world.

Google has £39 billion in the bank, meaning it can afford to keep veterans close even if they aren’t actively working at the company. People like Andy Rubin spent two years working on “Google X” projects after moving away from Android, most likely contemplating the future before finally leaving Google.