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It’s the culture, stupid

28 June, 2024

No-one ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office”. True, yet corporate culture is a priority for companies creating environments that attract and retain talent, and where work is not just a job, but a source of meaning and belonging.

That at least is the dream. And Netflix has long been the poster child for progressive corporate culture; famously, it issues periodic updates setting out its corporate ethos and culture, which are shared and commented on by employees. You can read its 2009 communique here (though at 125 slides, it ignores its own advice to be “concise and articulate in speech and writing”). What is interesting is the way in which Netflix grapples with corporate culture publicly and in dialogue with its employees (in striking comparison to its lack of transparency on issues such as streaming numbers).

The latest memo speaks to evolution, rather than revolution. It’s designed to be easier to understand and act on and to resolve issues that have arisen before (for example, clarification that “while employees are free to make decisions about their own work…managers need to be involved in work being done around them and actively coach their teams”). And it’s gathered a press attention, because it sets out clearly some of the challenges inherent in managing and motivating people in the workplace and putting culture into action.

Culture is about more than the employee experience. It underpins organisations’ ability to successfully deliver sustainability ambitions as well as strategy, which is one reason it interests us. Whether you want to follow Netflix in setting out to be “uncomfortably exciting”, reflecting on how your culture supports, or undermines, your business ambitions will always be a helpful exercise.

By Claire Jost

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