Imagine working for an organisation where there are no annual performance meetings, no bureaucracy, where you do not need permission to take time off, and where the expense policy is just five words long: ‘act in our best interest’.
Imagine working for an organisation where every person you work with is someone you admire and learn loads from.
Or rather, here it is.
Netflix is the world’s leading video on demand streaming company and a studio library in the cloud. Since its startup in 1997, it has gained over 90 million users in over 190 countries, and its revenues in 2016 were well over $8,800,000,000. It now produces more series and films than any other network or channel, spending $6 billion on content in 2017. It has unlimited viewing, no adverts, no cancellation fees. They are a harbinger of the era of internet TV. And one part of its success is due to its remarkable staff culture.
It’s been called the most important document to come out of Silicon Valley. Netflix’s slidedeck on their culture has been viewed 13 million times.
What lessons can we learn for creating a great staff culture in education? There are three that might be worth thinking about.
- Align your team around your values.
The Netflix culture focuses on achieving excellence through living their values, hiring and promoting for their values: priorities over bureaucracy; alignment, simplicity, candour, challenge, teamwork and self-improvement.
- All of us are responsible for ensuring we live our values.
- Building a great team is the most important task for managers, making sure everyone understands the top values, priorities and high performance.
- Managers are responsible for creating a great place to work. Employees stay because they are passionate about their work, and well paid, not because of bonuses.
- Eliminate distracting complexity.
- Give people excellent colleagues.
- The best thing you can do for employees is have only the best people work alongside them. Hiring and retaining excellent colleagues outmatch everything else.
- One outstanding employee gets more done and costs less than two adequate employees.
- We develop people by giving them the opportunity to develop themselves by surrounding them with stunning colleagues and giving them big challenges to work on.
- Promotions are for extraordinary role models for the culture and values.
- Teamwork is key to great culture.
“Years ago we eliminated formal performance management reviews. They didn’t make sense—they were too ritualistic and too infrequent. So we asked managers and employees to have conversations about performance as an organic part of their work. People can’t believe that a company the size of Netflix doesn’t hold annual reviews. If you talk simply and honestly about performance on a regular basis, you can get good results—probably better ones than a company that grades everyone on a five-point scale.”
“We continually tell managers that building a great team is their most important task. We didn’t measure them on whether they were excellent coaches or mentors or got their paperwork done on time. Great teams accomplish great work, and recruiting the right team was the top priority.”
- Managers own the job of creating great teams.
- Leaders own the job of creating great culture.
- Tell the truth about performance.
- Identify things that colleagues should start, stop and continue
- “Let’s just tell the truth. People can handle the truth.”
- Is there a mismatch between values and behaviours?
- Have the courage to question actions inconsistent with the values.
- Does everyone know what they should be doing right now to improve the organisation?
An organisation’s culture is shaped by its people and its teams, and their values and priorities. It is well worth us as school leaders taking a look at our own staff culture with this in mind.