The advantages of treating your employees like adults…

Netflix has just announced new maternity and paternity leave policies: no less than unlimited time off during the first year following birth or adoption of a child. The policy is part of move to create a more responsible work culture based on the assumption that employees will not abuse the company they work for, but will instead combine their own personal interests with the objectives and sustainability of the company.

Would such an approach be possible at the company where you work? Or would people take advantage of it to shirk? The answer shows whether your company’s labor relations are traditional or modern. Companies are increasingly seeing that the labor market is short on talent and that there job is to be able to attract and retain that talent.

This means treating workers as responsible adults who assume that offering their services in a professional way is in their best interests, and that the company will be there for them, whatever the circumstances, and at times to impressive extremes.

Benefits such as gourmet cuisine in the corporate dining room, laundromats, nurseries, gyms, hairdressers, and even a place to leave your pet, which some companies now offer, are not short-term measures to assure better productivity and that employees can work, work, work. These are ways of making life simpler for staff, and by holding on to them by making sure they are happy. It is simply a more mature approach in an environment that since the industrial revolution has been characterized by paternalism at best, and often little more than overseeing, along the lines of the Panopticon.

A new mentality based on the idea of “work how you want and in a way that is comfortable for you, and I will assess you on the basis of your results”, is taking over from the timekeeping approach of “leave after your boss has gone, otherwise he won’t be happy.” Personally, I have always worked like this: I don’t know if I just assumed it, or if it was conceded, but I know I couldn’t work for an organization where I had to enter and leave at the same time.

What Netflix is doing is simply recognizing that it has to do more to attract the best talent. It’s a refreshing new trend, even if some people are still shocked by the idea that labor relations do not have to be based on individual survival, on a fight for rights that in reality is the result of a failure of imagination on both sides rather than any real necessity.

More and more companies will copy this approach, offering a range of benefits based on people’s circumstances. Employer and employee have to build a relationship based on rationality, and show themselves able to take mature decisions. Companies that do not will find it hard to attract talented people, who will instead choose companies that treat them like adults and do not impose long lists of rules and regulations. Your response to Netflix’s move should tell you which kind of company you’d like to work for, or which kind of company you run, and how close you are to Netflix’s way of thinking, answers that will have an impact on the viability of the organization in the coming years.

(En español, aquí)

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