An Introduction to the Netflix Company Culture

I’ve always been fascinated by workplace cultures and trends in the talent industry. It’s amazing how candidates are weighing options based off an ever-changing list of factors including office space…

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I’ve always been fascinated by workplace cultures and trends in the talent industry. It’s amazing how candidates are weighing options based off an ever-changing list of factors including office space and location, perks, coworkers and friends, offsite activities, travel, etc., and of course compensation. This is something I’m currently going through, and I must admit it’s exciting.

All this to say, while I’ve been researching various Bay Area cultures and recruiting tactics, I found the Netflix approach to be best-in-class and worthy of a deeper dive. As a longtime Netflix fan who has been watching foreign flicks with my family for 10+ years, I’m excited to now share my findings on the company from a business perspective.

Behold the enviable Netflix culture, highlighted in the below links and resources from Netflix which I’ve used to source quotes and observations.

Patty McCord. Let’s start with Patty McCord. 14-year Chief Talent Officer at Netflix between ’98 and 2012 before starting her own talent consultancy. Here’s a description of her work at Netflix, taken directly from her LinkedIn profile:

I was a primary contributor in defining and bringing to life the unique corporate culture at Netflix. The ever evolving culture is not simply an esoteric vision, but it is a different day to day way of working. My role was to rethink, undo and reinvent the supporting practices and activities to make it real. This includes:

  • High Performance Culture
  • No Time-Off Policy for salaried employees
  • Allowing employees to choose how much, if any or all, stock equity participation
  • Stock option program with options granted monthly, fully vested, 10 years to exercise
  • Market based, not performance based pay
  • Flat benefits allowance
  • Internal Staffing Team organized and staffed as a boutique headhunting firm
  • Business Partners who deeply understand the business and the roles of the people in it
  • Relentless, ceaseless, candid feedback to leaders in the company

An impressive trailblazer in the space, Patty went on to become an Advisor to several major companies before becoming Principal of her own consultancy. Here are two links specific to Patty’s work at Netflix if you’d like to read beyond my findings:

The Netflix culture created by McCord empowers employees through engrained foundations of Freedom and Responsibility. Adults are expected to act like adults, and you shouldn’t plan on receiving career planning advice from your Netflix management. The culture is one of high performance, focusing on selflessness and self-improvement, asking employees to always “act in Netflix’s best interest.”

People who work at Netflix are typically seeking EXCELLENCE, and the Netflix culture is focused around helping them achieve these highest levels of excellence. Go-getters and A-Players are inherently drawn in by the values and culture pillars — similar to companies like Google, Netflix found that achieving a great workplace with high performance means surrounding your employees with stunning colleagues. Quote: Imagine if every person at Netflix is someone you respect and learn from… (slide 19).

The Seven Aspects of the Netflix Culture are as follows:

  1. Values (below)
  2. High Performance
  3. Freedom & Flexibility
  4. Context
  5. Alignment
  6. Top Pay
  7. Promotions & Development

Behaviors valued at Netflix include: Judgement, Communication, Impact, Curiosity, Innovation, Courage, Passion, Honesty, and Selflessness. The Slideshare below digs (much, much) deeper into each if you are interested in reading.

Have you ever heard of The Keeper Test? Think — Who would you keep, should your team require a restructuring? This notion of performance based analysis is relatively common outside of just Netflix, but they’ve created a culture built around the blood, sweat, and tears of hungry and hardworking employees.

A Harvard Business Review study built on Patty’s progress, explaining how a culture of meaningful work beats out a culture with top perks. The takeaway: It pays to spotlight talent and performance, as opposed to a company’s social aspects and benefits.

Sheryl Sandberg even dubbed Patty’s Netflix Culture Deck “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.” The 124-page document, albeit extensive, is definitely worth a read, and is full of impressive models and theories around company culture:

It’s been said that the performance-based culture at Netflix causes an overly high turnover rate, and creates a level of fear in employees. That said, you must be ready to join an intense company like Netflix, certain of success in your role, and eager to exceed expectations. Another lesson — don’t always trust Glassdoor reviews.

In terms of industry trends, Patty pinpointed the following:

  1. More realistic and generous parental leave policies.
  2. Gender equity and participation.
  3. Purpose and mission becoming as important as perks and parties.

The biggest organizational culture victory in 2015?

“The recognition of the lack of women in tech and the revisiting of diversity as an issue. Companies publishing race and sex data is huge.”

Patty goes on to discuss an exciting evolution seen in the 2016 Zappos experiment — Holacracy — which introduces self-management in organizations by replacing the traditional hierarchy with a peer-to-peer system that increases transparency, accountability, and agility. An interesting way to distribute authority and empower all employees to take a leadership role in making meaningful decisions. Here’s a bit more about Holacracy:

Certainly a trend to follow moving forward.

You can find more culture tips, takeaways, and trends in this Venture Beat piece with direct quotes from the leaders at Netflix, Zappos, Atlassian, and HBS.

Related — I recently started reading Laszlo Bock’s book Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead. Expect a follow up post soon!

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