As experts project the top hiring trend for the year ahead, one of the world’s most agile companies has valuable lessons.
One of the buzzwords to sweep HR in 2016 (along with “AI” and “analytics”) was trust; the concept that the more power you give people to make their own decisions and own their own actions, the more likely you’ll have staff that take leadership initiative – and don’t pass the buck. It’s also a noteworthy hiring trend.
A recent survey on the top hiring trend by recruitment consultancy Robert Half shows that 42 per cent of Australian HR managers say they place equal importance on both technical and soft skill capabilities when hiring new candidates. They placed leadership aptitude, communication skills and adaptability as the top three soft skills they looked for in a candidate. What’s more, 82 per cent of talent leaders in Australia believe an employer’s brand has a significant impact on their ability to hire great talent, as revealed in LinkedIn’s Australia Recruiting Trends 2017 report.
Ultimately, is a focus on recruitment the key to ensuring engaged, high performing workforces? And if so, how do you bring a holistic approach to recruitment that is in line with your company’s culture and purpose?
It’s worth revisiting this seminal essay about disruptive HR published at Harvard Business Review by Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix. Under her leadership, Netflix grew from a startup running a DVD delivery service to a seven billion dollar enterprise; adapting in response to market disruption while innovating new practices and technologies.
Underpinning it all was a daring – now legendary – ‘no rules’ approach to human resources.
According to Kevin Kruse at Forbes, while rules are supposed to protect quality, consistency and profits as a company grows, they often reinforce behaviour that tends to reward average performers and stifle high performers.
This is best expressed by the (infamous in the tech world) Netflix Culture Deck. It’s been touted “one of the most important documents to come out of Silicon Valley” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and has views in the millions. One of the most significant statements inside?
“Netflix posits that responsible people – the people that every company wants to hire – are not only worthy of freedom, they thrive on it.”
While the term ‘no rules’ is misleading (there was still an HR team after all!), the Netflix culture philosophy was core to their hiring strategy. It took as a given that if you hire people who will put the company’s interests first and who understand and support the desire for a high-performance workplace, 97% of your employees will do the right thing.
It also lead to some practices “previously unheard of” in HR.
How Netflix invested in trust and disrupted HR
- The “unlimited vacation policy”: Replacing a formally tracked vacation policy, Netflix allows salaried employees to take as much vacation time as they like. There are some guidelines: those working in accounting and finance are asked to be in the office during the beginning or end of a quarter. And anyone who wants more than 30 days off in a row should meet with HR.
- No formal travel or expense policy: rather than paying a travel agent or administrator to book and organise travel plans, Netflix chooses to leave the responsibility to their employees. There is one simple rule: ‘Act in Netflix’s best interests.’ Employees are expected to spend company money as it were their own, looking for opportunities to save when possible.
Anyone in HR knows that juggling multiple balls at once simply comes with the territory. Increasingly, people analytics and a sharper focus on business partnering within the HR function is highlighting the strategic elements of the profession more than ever before.
“Instead of cheerleading,” McCord suggests, “people [in HR] should think of themselves as business people. What’s good for the company? How do we communicate that to employees? How can we help every worker understand what we mean by high performance?”
What you can take from the Netflix ‘trust’ story to improve hiring in 2017:
- Approach hiring with company values top-of-mind. Investing in hiring talent that best fits the mission statement of your organisation is key to success in all other areas of business.
- Think deeply about the connection between culture and your employees. Ask ‘is your culture designed so that high performers thrive, or merely to protect against low performers?’
- Flip your thinking, from the hiring desk right up to high-level company culture strategy. Instead of gearing yourself to protect your company from the problematic three per cent, provide the best conditions for the high-performing 97 per cent.