Workers over 40 are likely to be accustomed to common experiences working at a large company, things like saving up hard-earned vacation days for that one too-short trip of the year, and worrying about whether the boss will be in a good mood the week of your annual performance review. But things seem to be changing within the ranks of new media and technology firms. Take Netflix. Expenses covered without approval and unlimited—wait, unlimited vacation?! A February 2015 Huffington Post article notes these as the perks for salaried Netflix employees.
It’s likely a difficult transition for long-existing corporations to go from a more traditional approach of tightly monitoring employee activity and forcing their accountability, to a system of trust and empowerment—perhaps why this kind of management is being seen at newer media and technology businesses; but the question is how can firms like Netflix do it, (and why)?
The why seems easy enough: who wouldn’t rather work for an employer that trusts and empowers its workers? That makes you an attractive employer. So one can assume a steady influx of workers trying to make their way into the Netflix ranks. Its success apparently resides in it’s expectations of employees . . . and this explains the “how.” The company’s goal of only hiring “fully formed adults” let’s you know that you may have some freedoms that come with being employed there, but if it’s also known that the employer will let you go the moment you don’t produce A-quality work, it motivates those employees to self-monitor in order to maintain their good standing in the company. [Slide 22 of 124 in the Netflix Culture Deck: “adequate performance gets a generous severance package.”] After all, history has taught us that some people will do anything for freedom. What could be more motivating than your employment, and all associated perks—trust, empowerment, unchecked expenses, unlimited vacation!—being swiftly taken from you if you prove not to be as grown-up as your boss anticipated?
As the article title states, Netflix “. . .Treats Employees Like Grownups.” But maybe what you’re wondering is how sharp does their HR staff have to be to know they’re hiring someone substantially mature enough to work well in this kind of self-regulating environment? One might traditionally think the key is in knowing well the people it hires before extending an offer . . . but perhaps it doesn’t have to. Working off the assumption that any human being who’s made it through the door has the capacity for amazing judgement, then bestowing upon that new worker a normally-earned-over-a-long-period-of-time “trust” (which we all crave), as they are thrust into an ‘intense culture of “freedom and responsibility”’ . . . maybe knowing what humans are willing to do for trust and freedom is enough. Maybe all that’s required is motivating your workforce by trusting them—in addition to having an amazingly accurate system for tracking what each employee produces, and how well they interact with others. Perhaps rather than a complex process of finding, weeding through and knowing deeply the right people before hiring, all that’s needed is strategic workforce planning—including a solid succession plan for moving one up through the company if she produces well, and a quick ejection button for her if she doesn’t.
Read the full Huffington Post article, One Reason For Netflix’s Success—It Treats Employees Like Grownups.