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The Story of the Netflix Culture Deck

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The Story of the Netflix Culture Deck: How a 127-page Slideshow Reinvented HR

This article is not meant to give concrete pieces of advice on how you should run your business. It is meant as an inspiration for innovation within your HR department, and as a brief capture of one of the most hyped HR departments in the 21st century. 

There can be no doubt about Netflix’s success. They have been one of the major actors in innovating the streaming business and the way we watch our favourite tv-shows. The stock has exploded and the subscription base grows annually, having reached over 200 million. 

In 2009 they released the Netflix Culture Deck – a 127-page PowerPoint slide, which has been called ‘’one of the most important documents to ever come out of Silicon Valley’’.   

The two overshadowing principles of the deck can seem simple yet harsh at the same time. Firstly, hire only ‘’A’’ players. And for that to be possible, then secondly, let go of people whose skills are no longer fit for the organisation. Nonetheless, that was the fundament of the organization’s talent management strategy. These rose from two conversations that Patty McCord, chief talent officer, had in 2001 and 2002. 

The first one was with an engineer, who had become a one-man department, working long hours following a significant layoff. But contrary to what McCord would have thought, the engineer was happier than ever. His former co-workers weren’t actually spectacular, and he had used most of his time cleaning up after their mistakes. He simply felt freer now.    

The second conversation was with a long-term and highly valued member of the staff. She had a flawless work ethic, but her skills were no longer adequate for the organization. Instead of persisting to let her stay at the organization, and consequently seeing her fail the tasks she was put to, Netflix gave her a spectacular severance package for her spectacular service.      

From these two principles Netflix shaped the 5 tenets that since have proved extremely effective: 

  • Hire, Reward, and Tolerate Only Fully Formed Adults
  • Tell the Truth About Performance
  • Managers Own the Job of Creating Great Teams
  • Leaders Own the Job of Creating the Company Culture
  • Good Talent Managers Think Like Businesspeople and Innovators First, and Like HR People Last

As written earlier, this simple PowerPoint slide has been said to ‘reinvent HR’. It has been watched over 5 million times on the web. Multiple takeaways can be drawn as inspiration from this display by Netflix. But, what we should end this article with, is the words from Patty McCord himself: 

‘’There’s no reason the HR team can’t be innovative too.’’

You can watch the PowerPoint show yourself right here.


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