If you post a presentation on the internet, and get over 14 million views, it’s a safe bet that people are interested in what you have to say.

A few years back, chief talent-officer Patty McCord put together a presentation to help sum-up the company culture to new employees at Netflix.

It’s gradually achieved almost legendary status, and has been described as the most important document ever to come out of Silicon Valley. And yes – it’s got over 14 million views.

So what’s the story? Why are so many people interested?

Well, the document has come to be seen as – not a barometer exactly (because it talks about a fairly radical culture at a very unique and successful company) – but as serious food-for-thought in challenging certain norms within organisations.

It’s 124 slides long, but you can actually zip through it in five minutes – it’s a very easy read. And pretty mind-blowing.

But the bit that stands out most for me comes in the first few slides. It basically says that an organisation’s values aren’t the nice-sounding words displayed in the reception areas or meeting rooms.

Values are the things that are actually valued in the day-to-day running and behaviour of a company. Values are the behaviours we reward – not the things we say we reward.

rewarding the right things

At Wrexham Council, we say we have six values.

• Trust
• Respect
• Innovation
• Flexibility
• Integrity
• Commitment

Do we really value these things? Do we reward employees who demonstrate these behaviours?

My honest answer? I think so. I hope so. I know that we try.

Here’s an example.

We’ve been developing our annual appraisal system, so that every employee will now get the chance to review not only their work outputs, but also their behavioural performance against our values.

So as part of that appraisal, employees will get feedback and be rated on whether they are a great role model for our values. Are they flexible, respectful, committed, and so on? And we link this to pay.

Another example.

We run an employee award scheme – called the ‘WOW Awards.’

Staff can nominate colleagues who they think deserve special recognition. We get people being nominated for providing outstanding services to customers, or bringing innovative ideas to the table, or going above and beyond to support their team-mates in getting the job done. And so on.

Nominations are scored against our values – trust, respect, innovation, flexibility, integrity, commitment. Those who receive an award don’t get a gold-plated watch, but they do get acknowledgement and respect from their peers – and that goes a long way.

And there are other, less formal things that happen too.

Someone who shows great innovation might be given more freedom to develop their ideas, for example.

we’re not netflix, but…

It’s hard to see how a culture like the one pioneered at Netflix would work in the public sector.

We can’t live our values as freely as that. Innovation can be difficult (though we reward it when it happens). And we probably struggle with too much process and control – like most large organisations.

But it would be too easy to write off the Patty McCord presentation as too radical and far-out for local government.

It contains some lessons that public sector orgs could reflect on (particularly those trying to become leaner, adaptable and more commercially savvy).

Don’t just adopt values that look nice on a page, or sound like good PR. Adopt values that you can – and will – live-by and reward on a day-to-day basis.

It’s not what we say that reveals what we value.

It’s what we do.

 

 

You can view the famous Netflix culture presentation on Slideshare.

You might also like this article on the Harvard Business Review website. It provides some interesting background and context.