Lessons from Netflix's Culture Deck to Build Company Culture (+ Helpful Tips)

Learn about "the most important document from Silicon Valley," as quoted by the former CEO of Meta.

Reviewed by:
Sabika Abbas
April 3, 2024
0 min read time
Nawal Malik

‘Our version of the great workplace is not great perks, like sushi lunches, great gyms, fancy offices, or frequent parties. It’s about investing in a dream team of talented people who are excited to pursue ambitious shared goals.’

These lines are straight from the pages of the Netflix Culture Deck – a set of 127 strikingly simple, unassuming slides outlining the company’s unorthodox organizational culture. 

Titled ‘Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility,’ this presentation was the brainchild of Patty McCord, then Chief Talent Officer, and Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and former Chief Executive Officer. At the time, their ideas may have sounded audacious, even crazy. But in hindsight, Netflix's remarkable journey from a humble DVD rental service to a global entertainment powerhouse stands as a testament to the effectiveness of its culture-building principles.

Here are lessons from Netflix’s culture deck + tips to incorporate them into your workplace. 

1. Encourage Respectful Disagreements 

“At Netflix, it is tantamount to being disloyal to the company if you fail to speak up when you disagree with a colleague or have feedback that could be helpful.” – Erin Meyer, co-author of 'No Rules Rules' (along with Reed Hastings).

According to its culture deck, Netflix values open and candid communication. The rule is simple: you shouldn’t say anything about an employee that you wouldn’t say to their face. This encourages unfiltered, honest feedback and fosters a sense of trust among team members. Managers and leaders at Netflix encourage their team members to share their opinions about new ideas and decisions, especially if they think they’re wrong.   

🚀 Actionable Tips:

1. Feedback Training: Implement training programs that teach employees how to give and receive feedback constructively. Make it a core part of your organizational culture.

2. Leadership Role Modeling: Encourage leaders and managers to set an example by openly accepting feedback and demonstrating that it's welcome and valued within the organization.

3. Peer Feedback Loops: Establish structured mechanisms for peer feedback where employees can provide constructive input to their colleagues.

Also read: Great leaders in the workplace 

2. Put People First, Processes Second

“There’s an assumption that people work for money, and many studies say that’s intrinsically not how people get satisfaction at work. I advocate figuring out the problems you need to solve, and then hiring people who want to solve them and can do it. That’s a different kind of matchmaking.” - Patty McCord. 

At the core of Netflix's success is its unwavering commitment to the principle of 'people over process.' They understand that exceptional individuals working harmoniously as a cohesive team yield far better results than rigid adherence to procedures.

🚀 Actionable Tips:

1. Competency Frameworks: Develop detailed competency frameworks that outline the specific skills, qualities, and behaviors required for success within your organization. SHL Universal Competency Framework and Creative Leadership (CCL) Competency Framework are two examples. 

2. Behavioral Interviews: Incorporate behavioral interviewing techniques into your hiring process. Ask candidates to provide specific examples of their demonstrated key competencies in past roles.

3. Regular Culture Assessments: Conduct regular culture assessments to measure how well your organization's values are being upheld.

Also read: The importance of EQ in the workplace

3. Hire Adults, Ditch the Rulebook

If you hire people who understand and support the desire for a high-performance workplace, 97% of your employees will do the right thing. Most companies spend endless time and money writing and enforcing HR policies to deal with problems the other 3% might cause. - Patty McCord.

Netflix’s approach is to hire responsible adults and entrust them with the freedom to act sensibly. They encourage employees to apply logic and common sense. This ‘adultlike’ behavior eliminates the need for outdated HR policies. For instance, Netflix eliminated a formal vacation policy, allowing salaried employees to take time off as needed.  

🚀 Actionable Tips: 

1. Flexible Policies: Consider revising rigid policies to empower employees and allow flexibility, such as rethinking time-off policies.

2. Empower Decision-Making: Encourage a culture of decision-making at all levels, giving employees the autonomy to make sensible choices within defined boundaries.

3. Open Communication: Promote honest and transparent communication channels where employees can openly discuss issues.

Also read: Creating a work-friendly culture in UAE 

4. Get Rid of ‘Brilliant Jerks’

“On our dream team, there are no brilliant jerks as they are detrimental to great teamwork. We insist on decent human interactions, no matter how brilliant someone may be”. - Netflix’s Culture Deck.

Netflix's approach starkly contrasts the conventional corporate tolerance for "brilliant jerks." They firmly reject that exceptional individual performance should come at the cost of a toxic work environment. Netflix places a premium on teamwork, recognizing that the disruption caused by brilliant yet disruptive individuals far outweighs any potential benefits.

🚀 Actionable Tips:

1. Zero Tolerance: Enforce a strict zero-tolerance policy for behaviors that disrupt teamwork or create a hostile work environment. 

2. Conflict Resolution Training: Offer training programs in conflict resolution and effective communication to help employees address interpersonal issues constructively. 

Also read: Building a culture of recognition in UAE 

5. Exceed Market Salaries

“It’s not disloyal to take a call from recruiters. Openly interviewing and giving Netflix the salary data benefits all of us.”—Ted Sarandos, CEO of Netflix.

Netflix encourages its employees to explore job opportunities with other companies and understand their true market value. What’s more, Netflix wants employees to stay because they are passionate about the job—not just because of compensation and incentives. It makes a good-faith estimate of the highest compensation each employee could make at peer firms and offers them the maximum possible compensation.

🚀 Actionable Tips:

1. Market Salary Research: Conduct market research regularly to stay updated on industry salary standards. Use this data to ensure your organization's compensation packages remain competitive.

2. Transparent Salary Communication: Promote transparency in salary communication. Encourage employees to discuss their compensation concerns and expectations openly. Share relevant salary data to demonstrate your commitment to fair pay.

3. Salary Benchmarking: Continuously benchmark your organization's salaries against peer firms in your industry.

Also read: Maintaining culture in a remote setting 

Company culture has a significant impact on any organization's overall productivity and performance. Netflix’s culture deck is an example of how the way we work is changing, and leadership that acknowledges and embraces this notion is more likely to foster a culture of success. 

Find out more tips and advice from culture experts. 

Hire Top Talent with AI
From a pool of 350,000+ top candidate