A very distinct culture described openly in a 126-pages long Powerpoint presentation helps Netflix attract the right talent – and scares off the people who are not suited for the California-based provider of internet television. If you love structure and resent ambiguity, this is not the place for you. Other companies could win by being more open about their actual culture.

In 2009 Netflix published a Powerpoint presentation called “Netflix culture; freedom & responsibility”.

The presentation described seven aspects of the Netflix culture: Non-star employees should get a generous severance, hard work was not relevant and the company seized tracking vacation were among the most noticeable aspects.

The presentation was an instant success in the HR community. However, new employees still ask: “Now that I am really here what is it really like,” says Tawni Cranz, Chief Talent Officer at Netflix.

But, according to Tawni Cranz, it is an accurate presentation of the culture of Netflix. Netflix is like a pro baseball team. They pay top dollar for top talent and you are a part of the team as long as you deliver results and do not get an offer from a better team. Just as it says in the presentation.

“We have spent a lot of time trying to put a presentation together that accurately depicts how we work. Many companies emphasis what they want to be instead of who they are. Netflix has been very clear about this from the beginning,” says Tawni Cranz.

If you will not fight for them, cut them

The keeper test is one such clear message of who Netflix is. The managers at the company are asked to continually hold their staff to the test: “which of my people, if they told me they were leaving in two months for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight hard to keep at Netflix?” The other people should get a generous severance now so that Netflix can open a slot to try to find a star for that role.

It might sound harsh but Tawni Cranz does not see it that way.

“We want the best people in every position. When we ask leaders to ask themselves: Would I fight to keep him or her we impose upon them to consider; is she in my mind, would I really fight to keep her. Am I keeping her in mind when I give great tasks or promote?”

Many companies look to Netflix for inspiration for their own corporate culture. When Tawni Cranz speaks to those companies, she tells them that there are some requirements for the Netflix culture.

“You need an amazing talent acquisition and a great severance package. You are actively engaged in the lives of your employees. You have to help your managers deliver on the message that you are great if you work at Netflix, but you are also great if you leave. We re-enforce that: To stay with the baseball metaphor: If you are traded, we still take care of you,” she says.

The talent is sorted

The very clear message about corporate culture helps sort the talent, even before they apply for a position with Netflix.

“I want to be able to bring people in that will do their best work. They should love it when they come here. The people who are drawn to us are self-motivated and responsible. They are comfortable with taking decisions without a lot of information. But I think that the culture also plays a role in filtering some folks out. Not everybody likes the unstructured and deal well with ambiguity. They should know who we are and who we are not,” Tawni Cranz says.

Take aways

  • A clear and communicated corporate culture will help attracts the right talent to your business.
  • You should be able to deliver on the culture when people start with you. Too often the mission, vision and values of career pages on the company web site does not uphold in real life.
  • The culture should be specific to your company and the needs of the business. As Tawni Cranz says: “You would not want a medical company to have our culture. Because mistakes happen.”