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A Culture Like Netflix?

By Derek Irvine

Road Sign Reading "Core Values"Recognize This! – Distinctive cultures may grab headlines, but shared values are what make them successful. And every company can achieve success by recognizing values.

Imagine for a moment that your own company’s culture is run like a professional sports team. Performers are highly rewarded for their contributions. Everyone else is deemed unnecessary and cut from the roster, to make room for future performers to enter the role. Salaries are all in the top 10% for the respective job roles. Sound far-fetched?

In reality, this is exactly the culture that Netflix has created (somewhat simplified because I don’t have 124 slides to go into every detail). In fact, I was reading a recent article on Fast Co. with Patty McCord, the architect of this culture as well as one of its recent victims. As the story says:

“She came to the company to create an enviable culture—which she did—and she left it sustaining and abled and in the end, there was really no need for her anymore at Netflix. She had played a good game, but the team no longer needed her as a player.”

I am fairly certain that few of us will actually work for companies with as extreme a culture as this, performing so well that we work ourselves out of a job. Still, these types of cultures, whether by dint of their originality or success, commonly make headlines. The task for the rest of us is to try to uncover some takeaways for our own everyday work experiences, find some kernel of truth that will lead to our own success.

From Netflix’s culture deck, my primary takeaway is their obsession with creating lived and shared values that align to a culture of excellence, freedom, and responsibility. While that specific culture is highly unique to the organization, I think the obsession with values (defined as “the behaviors and skills that are valued in fellow employees,” emphasis theirs) has much wider appeal.

If that sounds too aspirational, I will point to another analogy from the professional sports world: the sabermetrics of Moneyball. The lesson here is that you don’t need to be the superstar team with sky-high salaries to compete effectively. But, you do need to find an algorithm for success.

Coming back around to a business example, that means working within the culture and values you currently have, maximizing strengths and minimizing aspects that could slow down success. And one of the best ways to do this is through a social recognition program that is aligned to core values. Here’s why.

One of the best ways to demonstrate what is “valued in fellow employees” is to facilitate peer-to-peer connections. Giving colleagues the opportunity to recognize one another for behaviors and skills that demonstrate core values is a great way to empower everyone across the board, and reinforce the role those values play in creating a stronger culture. Because these recognition moments are rooted in behaviors, the problematic issue of values that only live on corporate posters is easily avoided. Over time, positive values-based behaviors that align to strengths are reinforced, positively spiraling across employees’ work.

Not every company may have a culture like Netflix’s, but every company can take advantage of the winning algorithms of recognizing core values linked to a valuable and distinctive culture.

How does your organization transform its values into a lived and shared experience among employees?

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