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Netflix's McCord urges HR to shun the rules

HR directors should throw away the rulebook if they want to improve their business and rise up the ranks, Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer at Netflix, has claimed.

The founder of Patty McCord Consulting wrote a candid article in Harvard Business Review last month, describing how she revamped the on-demand internet media company’s HR policy.

Her actions included allowing staff to take as much holiday as they felt was appropriate. One reader labelled the ideas “caustic”, but McCord insists they are “common sense” and should be applied in other organisations.

Speaking exclusively to HR magazine, McCord urged HR professionals to stop treating employees like small children and question their own actions. “There’s a tenet of HR religion called best practices – we talk about it a lot and with reverence,” she said. “I think it just means ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’. I stopped every time I did anything and asked, ‘Does this make sense? Is this logical?’”

McCord suggested companies should use this technique when introducing software: “We’re so excited about it, it drives the process, rather than us thinking about whether it’s relevant.”

McCord’s second call to HRDs was to “just stop doing stuff”. She explained how she stopped sending a monthly report around Netflix, only to resume once a few employees asked for it: “That way I knew they needed it.”

HR professionals often walk out of her talks, and she concedes her Netflix methods would not apply to every organisation.

“Some of us just come from different places,” she said, adding that HR people must understand all parts of their business if they want to progress.

“The most common frustration relates to getting a seat at the table,” she said. “The answer is you earn it like everyone else – you come to the table fully prepared to discuss anything. The deeper you’re in to all parts of the business, the more you understand what talent is needed to accomplish its goals.”

She was chief talent officer at Netflix between 1998 and 2012.