Media Perspective: Taking a refreshing approach to finding and keeping talent

And now for some PowerPoint! Not words normally calculated to get people hastening to the conference room but, in this one instance, you might just learn something useful. Because an internal Vision/Mission document from the company Netflix has shown up on the internet and it reveals some fascinating thinking about company cultures and how to consider, and manage, talent. (To find it, go to www.slideshare.net and search for "Netflix culture".)

Now, we all know that crafting the vision/purpose palaver for your own company can be a grim and depressing experience as you delineate in your head the differences between the dreams on the page and the likely realities in the world. But when you get hold of someone else's, there's often a schadenfreude-ish pleasure to it - let's see how they enumerate the differences between their hopes and their bitter actuality.

In this case, however, the schadenfreude soon fades as you realise this is a company with an unusually clear sense of its own culture - one that's both extremely ambitious and very realistic about people and organisations. You won't be that impressed as you start to click through the deck, it's a typical list of values - innovation, curiosity and courage.

But as you get to about slide 28, you realise there's something slightly different going on here. It uses the words "adequate performance gets a generous severance package". There's steel beneath the fine words; adequate performance isn't enough, nor is being a "brilliant jerk". These people are very focused on finding and retaining the right talent. Then, as you get to about slide 41, you start to nod in recognition as a series of charts details how most companies add complexity and risk-reducing systems as they grow in size.

Then, and this is the first moment of illicit joy, they admit, they actually admit, that a focus on process will drive talented people away. This is one of those corporate taboos that everyone knows but that no-one dares speak out loud. It's not that the wrong process drives the talent out, it's that any process does. Full marks to them for admitting it. But even more marks for thinking through the implications: realising that if they want to succeed with maximum freedom of operation for their employees, they've got to hire even better people and increase the talent density even further. I haven't got the space to tell you how they propose doing it, but it's fascinating stuff - you should take a look.

And, of course, this being the web, there are alternative views out there. Go to www.glassdoor.com and search for Netflix again, you'll see some other perspectives. It might even be worth looking up your own company while you're there, see what your talent thinks of you. Scary.

russell@russelldavies.com

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