Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Netflix: Can a Call Center have Freedom and Responsibility?

If you are at all like me, in terms of being a business nerd, then you should really read this presentation, called Freedom and Responsibility, which the blog Hacking Netflix found about that company's internal culture, compensation policy, benefits, and all sorts of other awesome tidbits.

I've been reading this a little bit at a time since it came out a few days ago, and really digesting each portion, and there's a lot of interesting ideas in there. I imagine I'll cover this in 3 or 4 posts total, each segment more exciting than the last (probably).

The first thing you see is telling: "Freedom and Responsibility applies to our Salaried employees: our Hourly employees are important, but have more structured roles."

Which is a bit disappointing. I assume this is because turnover at call centers is so consistently high that they can't afford to risk such an important part of a company's public face (customer service) to whatever weirdos and liabilities they may have hired last week.

BUT, I'm sure there are a great many entry level salaried jobs at Netflix, and that you don't have to wait until you're a VP to enjoy this kind of freedom.

Still, I can't help but wonder, and it's a question that will be a guiding theme of my coverage of this presentation: What would happen if you applied these ideas to hourly employees? Surely Netflix's treatment of managers and salaried employees can teach us something about managing cashiers and call center peeps. But the risk is higher: you're giving freedom to people who are not only the literal face and voice of your company at the ground level, but people who are usually working in high-stress, under-staffed jobs where it's easy to become dependent on employees who show up but often cause problems or make mistakes.

Just some ideas to think about on our magical journey through Netflix's Employee handbook.

1 comment:

  1. You know, it's interesting how things work out sometimes. I had sent in a resume to work at the local Netflix call center here in the Denver area. I later discovered that it's in an area that has very poor public transportation accessibility: I don't drive because my eyes, even with glasses, have poor depth perception and distance issues. It was just as well, since they blew me off, anyway.

    Your quote here:

    The first thing you see is telling: "Freedom and Responsibility applies to our Salaried employees: our Hourly employees are important, but have more structured roles."

    made me realize I got off lucky. If you've never worked in a call center before, what this is essentially saying is, "We will monitor every second of your day at work, you'll get 2 fifteen minute breaks and a half hour lunch with no flexibility, if you're VERY lucky, you might get your own desk just like in a real job, and we'll treat you like a slave and pay you crap until you burn out and we replace you or send your job to India."

    So essentially, it shows me they're no different than any other call center, despite the company itself being one I'd like to work for.

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