Workplace Spotlight: Netflix Company Culture Focuses on "People over Process"

Ross Brooks
Workplace Spotlight: Netflix Company Culture Focuses on
At its core, the Netflix company culture is about “people over process”. The company offers its employees generous benefits like unlimited holidays and an expense policy that simply requires people to “act in Netflix’s best interests”. While it’s not surprising that 70% of employees on Glassdoor would recommend working at Netflix to a friend, there’s more to their success than unlimited holidays.
 
Not content with revolutionising the way the world consumes media, Netflix is also on a mission to revolutionise organisational culture. The company’s original culture deck was published on SlideShare nearly 10 years ago, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, praised it as “the most important document ever to come out of the Valley”.
 
The 125-slide deck has since been replaced with a page on the Netflix website that explains its mission, values and culture. It draws on the original concept laid out in the Netflix culture deck, including what behaviour are expected of employees in order to become part of the “dream team”.

Founding Story

Unlike many Silicon Valley tech giants, Netflix’s founder Reed Hastings – and the real founding story of the company – is famously elusive. The common belief was that Netflix was born after Hastings had to pay a fine on a late DVD return, but this lately been discredited by the company’s co-founder Marc Randolph. Randolph attributes the company’s success to he and Hastings wanting to create “the Amazon.com of something”. Hastings, who studied mathematics at college, has also recently said Netflix was inspired by a maths problem about bandwidth.
 
While the true inspiration behind the streaming giant may be unclear, there’s no uncertainty around the values that make up the Netflix company culture.

Netflix Manifesto

As with many other companies that know how to create high levels of employee engagement, the Netflix company culture doesn’t revolve around cheap thrills and financial incentives. “Our version of the great workplace is not comprised of sushi lunches, great gyms, fancy offices or frequent parties. Our version of the great workplace is a dream team in pursuit of ambitious common goals”.
 
This snippet from the Netflix manifesto reflects the importance the company places on teamwork, which drives everything from its policy against hiring “brilliant jerks”, to encouraging staff to step up if they feel someone is being marginalised. This is a stark contrast to many companies in Silicon Valley, which have come under fire in recent years for its lack of diversity.
Netflix core values
 
Netflix’s values can be summed up by the phrase “people over process”. They also rely on the idea of a dream team, which is when “all of your colleagues are extraordinary at what they do and are highly effective collaborators”. The result is a more flexible, fun, stimulating, creative, and successful organisation.

Netflix Core Values

Netflix has ten company values that the company prides itself as being “real”. These values are:
  • Judgement
  • Communication
  • Impact
  • Curiosity
  • Innovation
  • Inclusion
  • Courage
  • Passion
  • Integrity
  • Selflessness
Netflix notes that many organisations claim to have certain values, but that they are mainly for show. At Netflix, employees who follow these values to the letter are the ones who are most likely to be promoted. The values are fully expanded upon in the manifesto, giving employees a clear road map on how to behave.
 
In keeping with this, a senior software engineer on Glassdoor said: “The environment encourages you to be a better version of yourself, which is far from the case in many places and often the opposite of that.”
Netflix manifesto

What makes the Netflix company culture so unique?

In many ways, the essence of the Netflix company culture comes down to honesty. The company is built on tight-knit, performance-driven teams with a strong sense of ownership and loyalty. Managers are asked to communicate regularly with staff about their performance, and staff are encouraged to ask how they’re doing in order to get honest, constructive feedback. The manifesto says: “In the tension between honesty and kindness, we lean into honesty. No matter how honest, though, we treat people with respect.”
 
So, what can we learn from Netflix?

Netflix demonstrates how important it is to choose core values you genuinely care about

Think about what you value in your best staff members and make these your company values – don’t just choose buzzwords. Think more about what you want to live up to, rather than feel you should

Netflix only hires people who can work effectively as part of a team

Avoiding ‘superstars’ with bad attitudes or poor work ethics. During the hiring process, look for soft skills such as empathy and emotional intelligence, and try to envisage how the candidates will slot into the team you’re placing them with.

Netflix’s policy of brutal honesty helps to build trust between colleagues, as well as with management

Offer candid feedback and implement a similar policy to Netflix: no-one should say anything about an employee that they wouldn’t say to their face.

Netflix encourages ownership through flexibility

It might sound like it would be a free-for-all, but policies such as unlimited holidays have been shown to boost loyalty and productivity – and many staff members don’t actually take advantage of them. Hire people who’ll respect, not abuse, these perks.

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