Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer of Netflix and author of Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility, believes that "talent density and appealing challenges" are at the core of employee motivation.  

Tackling tough challenges alongside great colleagues is what attracts and motivates top talent. (This is especially true for Generation Z and Millennial employees.) 

In my recent interview with McCord, she shared how Netflix rigorously maintained its talent density.  

1. Challenge everything.

McCord asked herself, "What is the purpose of this activity?" about everything in the organization. McCord's guiding belief is that "companies don't need to empower people, because people already have power." 

"The elaborate, cumbersome systems for managing people that were developed over the course of the 20th century are just not up to the challenges companies face in the 21st," says McCord. 

McCord created conditions for people to exercise their power by getting rid of burdensome and irrelevant policies, approvals, and procedures. For example, McCord got rid of Netflix's vacation policy, made compensation more transparent, and completely revised how feedback was exercised inside the organization. 

"Most of what we did was in the spirit of innovation and experimentation. [Netflix] evolved a new way of working through incremental adaptation: trying new things, making mistakes, beginning again, and seeing good results. Most of the innovation around the culture at Netflix wasn't to do anything radical and new but to stop doing stuff that didn't matter anymore," says McCord. 

2. Be a great company to be from.

Viewing Netflix as a great company to be from changed how McCord viewed her work. McCord viewed her job as ensuring people left Netflix with something they didn't have before, such as experience, meaningful contributions, or fulfilling work. 

"Employee engagement doesn't mean anyone put a ring on it," McCord jokes. "As an employee, don't stay if you're unhappy. As an employer, don't keep unhappy people. Let's ebb and flow and make sure that when we are together, we are accomplishing amazing stuff with other incredible people whom we respect." 

McCord continues, "Be realistic as an employee. When you wake up in the morning and you don't want to go to work, the next thought before you starting blaming your employer for not caring how amazing you are ... you might want to realize that you are finished with the amazing work or the amazing thing you love to do is no longer important to the company or customer."

McCord mastered the art of good good-byes in order to maintain high-performing talent density. 

3. Always be recruiting. 

McCord was empowered to encourage employees to move on from Netflix because she infused an "always be recruiting" mindset into the company culture. McCord understood the need to be highly proactive about creating a pipeline of top talent. 

At Netflix, building a great team was perceived as everyone's job. Interviews trumped any meeting that a hiring manager was scheduled for. 

"Our goal was for every single person who came in for an interview to walk away wanting the job, even if we hated them," says McCord. To do that, Netflix made the entire recruiting process extremely impressive all the way through. Netflix extended an incredible candidate experience that was efficient, effective, on time, and treated the candidate with dignity.  

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Published on: Sep 5, 2018