Culture: Borrowing from the best

by Iain Hopkins14 Dec 2015
Want a Netflix-worthy culture in your organisation? Read on for what they’ve done right – and why tailored benefits and a culture of recognition will always win out over faddish perks any day
Another year, another upstart company that appears to have turned HR on its head. This year the accolade must go to Netflix. Patty McCord was the chief talent officer at Netflix between 1998 and 2012. In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, McCord outlined how Netflix reinvented HR to create the viral ‘Netflix Culture Deck’ (NCD). The NCD is essentially a living set of “behaviors and skills” that the Netflix management team update continuously and fastidiously. It drives toward a single point: a company is like a pro sports team, where good managers are good coaches, and the goal is to field stars in every position.

Describing the NCD, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings previously said that not enough HR departments are thinking innovatively.

“Many of the ideas in it seem like common sense, but they go against traditional HR practices,” he said. “Why aren’t companies more innovative when it comes to talent management? As a society, we’ve had hundreds of years to work on managing industrial firms, so a lot of accepted HR practices are centred in that experience. We’re just beginning to learn how to run creative firms, which is quite different.”
Netflix and companies like it are reinventing how employees engage with their employer, and vice-versa.
Indeed, if there’s one recurring theme that has emerged throughout 2015, it’s a re-examination of this relationship. Central to this relationship is trust. Take, for example, the flurry of interest in work-life balance initiatives introduced by various companies this year, including a major focus on employee leave policies – in all its forms.
Long-held, stringently monitored annual leave policies are being relegated to the dustbin of history. In their place are flexible policies that allow employees to take as much leave as they want, when they want, without asking them to track it.
When he launched Virgin’s new approach to annual leave, Richard Branson explained: “…the policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want…the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel 100% comfortable…[that] their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”
Sticking with work-life balance a little longer, Netflix has also broken ground for return-to-work parents. Their latest headline-grabbing announcement was the introduction of fully paid, unlimited parental leave for 12 months from the arrival of a child – applicable for both women and men.
Netflix rationalises their ‘freedom and responsibility’ culture as being aligned to their recruitment of ‘fully formed adults’.
Essentially, these businesses have replaced traditional workplace protocols with good old fashioned trust.

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