Spotlight On: What It’s Like to Work at Netflix

Netflix has revolutionized the way people watch TV and movies. This on-demand streaming media service is available throughout the globe, and it now has more 69 million subscribers, with 43 million of those being in the U.S. Netflix has been so successful it’s also launched its own original programming line-up including the highly popular House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.  

Throughout this popularity and originality, Netflix is also known for something else: its talent management strategy.Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 5.59.51 PM

Vacation and Parental Leave Time

In November Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told an audience at the DealBook conference that he takes six weeks of vacation a year and that he finds it “helpful.” Hastings went on to say it’s something he’s open about in the office and he not only does it for personal reasons but also to set a good example internally.

Netflix doesn’t have a defined vacation policy and instead allows employees to utilize unlimited vacation time.

There are some who praise this policy, while others have criticisms. Critics say it leaves employees feeling confused and unsure of what to do in terms of vacation time, and they might actually take less time than they would if they were offered detailed guidelines. That’s one of the reasons Hastings says he tries to set the example with his own six weeks of time.

Netflix took a similar approach to parental leave recently, by making the announcement that employees could take an unlimited amount of leave during their first year as new parents.

Hastings confirmed at the same conference Netflix doesn’t track employee vacation times, and he told Andrew Ross Sorkin, DealBook founder, that he feels taking time off really allows people to actually do their best work.

He also said he believes the vacation and parental leave policies in place at Netflix encourage a sense of independence, trust and employee loyalty.

“What we’re trying to do is earn loyalty and trust — that they really care about Netflix, in addition to caring about their family,” Hastings said.

Hastings went on to point out that he feels the American business sector is taking the wrong approach to the work-life debate. He said instead it should be dubbed the work-life integration, meaning people find ways for their business and personal lives to come together, rather than always trying to separate and define them.

“It’s really about successful work-life integration…that modern, successful integration,” Hastings said. “We all are learning as a society how to do it and not have us become neurotic or controlled or overworked.”

A Sense of Freedom

The vacation and parental leave policies are part of the idea that’s inherent to the Netflix talent management strategy and that is promoting a sense of freedom that recognizes employees as “fully-formed adults.”

The idea is that by hiring qualified adults, Netflix is able to give employees a sense of freedom, knowing they’ll exercise discretion and responsibility. They’re assuming their employees have a keen sense of judgment, and that’s really the focus of the company and the talent management strategy, rather than process.

Patty McCord, former HR leader at Netflix, told the Harvard Business Review the following:

“Hire, reward and tolerate only fully formed adults. The best thing you can do for employees—a perk better than foosball or free sushi—is hire only “A” players to work alongside them. Excellent colleagues trump everything else.”

This is outlined in the Netflix culture deck, which is a slide-style presentation that’s become famous in Silicon Valley. Many people point to this culture deck as the key to the meteoric rise of Netflix.

The entire concept of fully-formed adults and responsible decision making is reliant on a strong dedication to the very best in recruitment, so Netflix says that’s where they put their focus. Rather than focusing on fixing problems with employees, they put their attention toward hiring employees that aren’t going to create those problems, or at least they try to.

The official Freedom and Responsibility mantra listed by Netflix is this: “At Netflix, everyone gets the freedom to do their best work and the responsibility to achieve excellence. We value candor, transparency and courage. We embrace context and avoid control, seeking insight and understanding to make sound decisions.”

Focus on Recruiting

Since so much of the Netflix talent management strategy is built on recruiting, it’s worth taking a look at how they find and attract the best talent.

The first thing Netflix does differently than many other companies is treating each and every candidate with respect and attention, even if they don’t turn out to be the ultimate hire. This doesn’t, however, mean you should lie to candidates or make them believe they’re a good fit if they’re not. Netflix prides itself on being honest with employees, and that includes during the recruitment and interview process. They want to be respectful of candidates time, and they’re trained to put themselves in the shoes of candidates.

Netflix also really puts emphasis on building and maintaining a talent pipeline, even when they’re not actively hiring. This happens through continuaScreen Shot 2015-11-11 at 6.03.58 PMl recruiting as well as referrals from current employees. Netflix holds the position that the best talent is usually the individuals that come from within their existing network.

Netflix also expedites the process. As mentioned above, they value candidates time even if they’re not ultimately hired, but they also like to make the hiring process fast, so they don’t lose out on top talent.

Diversity and Inclusion

At a time when Silicon Valley and tech companies are under fire for a lack of diversity, this is something Netflix is also spotlighting in their talent management strategy. The company says that part of the reason it’s been able to expand on a global scale is because they encourage debate, candor and diversity of thought. They also say that as they continue to grow globally it’s their goal to continue to source talent from a “wide range of perspectives and backgrounds.”

They offer a sense of transparency, with a breakdown of their workforce listed on their hiring site.

What’s really unique about Netflix is that while it has a revolutionary talent management strategy, it’s not necessarily about the glitz and allure of other tech companies like Google. Rather than focusing on out-of-the-box perks and freebies, Netflix is building a strategy based on personal responsibility which could represent the future of talent management in the U.S.

November 11, 2015   Updated :September 19, 2016      

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