Here’s What Netflix Can Teach You About Creating an Awesome Work Culture

Everyone knows that Netflix has redefined the way we watch movies and television (and made binge-watching shows until 3AM far too easy).

But it may surprise you to learn that this global success story has also revolutionized culture in the workplace.

For instance, their 124 page SlideShare on culture is regarded as the holy grail when it comes to having a great workplace. Sheryl Sandberg (the COO of Facebook) called it “one of the most important documents ever to come out of Silicon Valley”, and it’s been viewed tens of millions of times online.

Netflix has created a company culture based on honesty and responsibility amongst all parties using techniques that can be implemented in any business model. I’ll show you how to incorporate these into your own company, no matter what your industry.

Lead by example


Wouldn’t you want your company to emulate those values?

Well, as Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings famously pointed out, those were the values also written in Enron’s lobby.

That’s why Netflix has a focus on actual values. As Hastings stated “the actual company values as opposed to nice-sounding values are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, and let go”.

That’s why you need to tell every employee from sales to admin that he or she is responsible for promoting company culture.

For instance, your sales team members are some of your most active cultural catalysts to the outward world. But they aren’t the only ones who are counting on you as the culture keeper. From admins to analysts to engineers, each member of your team is a culture catalyst, too, in a less direct way. All employees need to feel connected to the larger mission of the company, and you are a vital influence in creating that connection.

This also starts at the top. As a company leader in any industry, you need to take the time to really develop your organization’s values, then make sure you stand by them.

If you can’t inspire belief in your particular rainbow, your team certainly can’t. They will struggle to stay engaged. Even worse, without a strong vision, their sole motivation will be the pot of gold.

Whether you have one part-time assistant or a staff of 20, if you can’t get the troops to adopt your vision as their own, you’re dead on arrival. Without that, work feels pointless. How well do you work when you don’t feel like what you do has purpose?

Entrepreneurs often take for granted that people know and love their mission as much as they do. Of course you know and love it; it’s your baby. Don’t take for granted that your employees are always on board.

Hire responsible adults

No, we’re not talking about a specific age limit here.

But as you’ve probably already experienced, some adult-aged people in the workplace have the ability to make a toddler seem sage and mature.

That’s why the underlying principle of Netflix’s HR policies has nothing to do with skills. Their focus is on finding “fully formed adults” who naturally care about the company’s well-being. This removes HR’s burden to “nanny” and create and enforce tedious policies.

If people already want the business to succeed, you won’t have to worry about babysitting them. It also gives departments with different subcultures the ability to operate in ways that work best for their specific workloads.

For example, what’s Netflix’s expense policy? It’s pretty short: “Act in Netflix’s best interests.”

Treat employees like adults and let them act as such. It’s pretty simple.

Weed out brilliant jerks

Brilliant Jerks.

I’m sure we’ve all had to deal with at least one of them. At best their “brilliance” is overshadowed by how their personality impacts your workday, and at worst they drag the whole team down with them.

Maybe these workplaces should take a cue from Netflix, who said:

“Some companies tolerate them. For us, the cost of teamwork is too high.”

That’s why their managers are always told to ask themselves, “Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep at Netflix?”

You should do something similar, by focusing on attitude just as much as skills. Know what can and can’t be trained.

Remember: Skills can be learned. Attitude is a different story.

Ask yourself: Does this person add unique value? You literally can’t afford the naysayer who discourages or detracts from the team’s efforts. In certain cases, enthusiasm goes farther than mere experience. A bright employee who is eager to learn can become a standout contributor, given the chance to build a foundation in the necessary skills.

Constantly review it

Netflix has found success in not only constantly measuring performance, but also by making cultural fit an ongoing conversation.

Instead of meeting about this once (or twice) a year, they’ve done it through informal 360 degree reviews.

So rather than skirting around someone’s jerk personality, or bringing any performance issue after a year (which is like steering a ship right before it crashes into an iceberg), they do this constantly.

Using either feedback forms or face-to-face meetings, employees are encouraged to discuss what their co-workers should stop, start, or continue doing.

You too can institute policies that help the culture you want to achieve.

At LexION Capital, all employees help keep the culture as part of a 360-degree feedback loop. They are welcome and encouraged to submit anonymous feedback on any issue, at any time. Not only does this help us access ideas and solutions from all levels, but it creates an input funnel that helps our values-based culture thrive via a self-correcting system. By including mechanisms for anonymous feedback, we hope to weed out and deter a “jerk factor.”

No matter your company culture, a feedback loop helps keep that tone consistent and root out any potential wrinkles early, before they become more pervasive problems.

By throwing the “that’s the way we’ve always done things” mentality out the window, Netflix has created a unique company culture that rewards performance without being overbearing on employees. You don’t have to implement sweeping changes to do the same at your own company — start off with small steps and let it snowball into something amazing.

If you enjoyed this article, you can read more of my thoughts in my column for Inc. as well as at Love The Hustle.