Alex is a marketer at Zavvy. On this blog, he mainly shares insights gained from discussions with selected experts and from helping our customers set up and improve their onboarding or learning programs.
When the first Netflix culture deck came out of Silicon Valley, it went viral.
The deck spoke about how Netflix doesn't see the team as a family but as a sports team. And they build this "sports team" by:
It triggered many polarized reactions (and continues to do). Few called it pressurizing, expecting employees to be at the top of their game all the time, and a few found it a game-changer.
Netflix culture isn't for everybody. Working (and succeeding) at Netflix is firstly adapting to this culture. And the company does well in getting new employees on board.
Clearly, Netflix is doing something right while onboarding new employees and helping them settle into this unique culture.
So what does Netflix's employee onboarding process look like? And how can you replicate it?
Netflix takes its onboarding strategy seriously to ensure a smooth transition.
There are five major parts in their onboarding process.
Netflix doesn't simply give the offer letter and waits for the candidate to show up on the first day.
Instead, they do some groundwork or preboarding between the interview and the day of joining to keep communication ongoing with the candidate.
The four main steps of their preboarding process are:
Most of the paperwork is signed digitally. So when employees step in on Day 1, they are not worried about documentation but ready to take in exciting information.
New hires are requested to read the culture document, so they understand the work they are stepping into.
Tech support contacts the new hire and asks for the laptop/hardware of their choice and the software they need. Their workstation is ready before they arrive(if working from the office) or delivered to home(if working remotely)
Even the Netflix swag, like a blanket, jacket, shirt, insulated cup, etc., is delivered before 1st day. These tiny details create a great first impression.
On the first day of work, the new hire gets an email from their onboarding buddy. A buddy is like a peer mentor who helps a new hire sail through the initial days and get familiar with workplace culture, company policies, perks and benefits, and more. They also bridge social connections with the rest of the team and become a strong support system.
At Netflix, buddy shares the onboarding plan. There is a lot to soak in the initial days. Buddy frequently checks in with the new hires and helps them prioritize.
Onboarding sessions are designed as episodes spread throughout the first couple of months of being at Netflix. It focuses on:
Sessions are often planned as a cohort if multiple people join on the same day.
These sessions often have interesting themes, like popular games, to make the onboarding fun.
New hires also attend an onboarding session with executive management so that the employee can understand the company's direction.
New employees get projects and tasks within a week, so they feel included in the team, which increases employee engagement.
For example, Poorna Udupi, an Engineer at Netflix, shares his first production deployment was within a week of joining.
And within four months of joining, he was working on a key product.
To enable employees to contribute to the projects, Netflix takes two measures:
At Netflix, employees have access to information or project documentation in detail to help them get started.
For instance, imagine a newly hired software engineer working on an application code. First, he tries to understand the code alone but just scratches his head about the logic. Then, as he could not figure things out independently, he decided to contact an engineer who wrote the code. But to his surprise, he realizes they have left the company. Now what?
Unfortunately, such surprises are common when a company doesn't focus on documentation. Netflix isn't one of them.
If new hires need project-level or technical training, like a coding boot camp, the onboarding process will include it.
Netflix onboarding doesn't skip on building human connections. New employees get a list of contacts to have one-on-one meetings.
These meetings give a forum to get feedback, gain knowledge and also build connections.
For instance, Cecili Reid, Senior Software Engineer at Netflix, shares she got a list of contacts to connect with while onboarding. From the list, she connected with three employees for 45 minutes weekly. The conversations ranged from work advice to informal discussions, like hobbies.
Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, struggled in his leadership journey with Pure software, his first startup.
So, when Reed stepped into Netflix, he knew what he wanted to do and what to avoid.
He collaboratively worked with Patty McCord, Former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, on the culture deck.
Ultimately, Netflix's philosophy was in place, which had five major points:
All these five philosophies reflect on their onboarding process.
Patty McCord shared an interesting story about how this philosophy was born. One day she was talking with one of Netflix's best engineers. Before the layoffs, he managed three engineers, but now he was a one-man army.
So she told him she was trying to hire some help for him soon.
But his response surprised her. "There's no rush—I'm happier now," he said.
It turned out that laid-off engineers were merely adequate. He spent too much time fixing their mistakes. His words echoed in Patty's mind, and Netflix started focusing on hiring only A-level players.
Netflix brings in new hires who are talented and self-starters. And it reflects on the onboarding process—more of it in the next two points.
As the new hires are self-starters, the Netflix team shares as much information as possible while onboarding them. So they can figure out the path ahead and start working independently soon.
Reed Hastings also mentions in his book, No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention,
"When you give low-level employees access to information that is generally reserved for high-level executives, they get more done on their own. They work faster without stopping to ask for information and approval.
They make better decisions without needing input from the top."
As per this philosophy, the company trusts new hires' judgment, and they work independently on the projects from the get-go.
Renne Rummel-Mergeryan, Director of Business Development - EMEA at Netflix, says:
"We hire people with the right mindset who are smart and experienced. We hire them because we think they are the best person in the world for that role, right? And then we trust these people to make great decisions."
Netflix's culture memo stresses frequent communication.
This value is reflected in their onboarding, as the process encourages regular one-on-one meetings.
Another point Patty McCord raises is:
"If you're careful to hire people who will put the company's interests first, who understand and support the desire for a high-performance workplace, 97% of your employees will do the right thing.
Most companies spend endless time and money writing and enforcing HR policies to deal with problems the other 3% might cause.
Instead, we tried really hard to not hire those people, and we let them go if it turned out we'd made a hiring mistake."
Netflix onboarding is based on the assumption of having hired intelligent people who can fit into the culture. So there is little point in setting strict rules.
None of the technical setups for new hires needs any formal approval. Instead, employees get what they ask.
As a result, they enjoy freedom and flexibility from day one.
➡️ Want to learn more from Netflix's groundbreaking HR practices? Check out our deep dive into how Netflix runs performance reviews.
Proper employee onboarding has many benefits. Let's see how each part of Netflix onboarding makes the whole program successful.
A 2021 survey by job board Indeed found 33% of new hires didn't show up on the first day of a new job.
Preboarding keeps the communication line open and motivates candidates for new roles.
An onboarding buddy creates a welcoming environment and ensures new hires are not clueless about whom to reach out to when they are stuck. It adds to the overall productivity.
Case in point: At Microsoft, 73% of employees who met with their buddy two to three times in the first 90 days were more productive. This number rose to 86% for new hires who met with their buddy four to eight times and 97% percent for new hires who met with their buddies over eight times.
Onboarding sessions help new hires with:
These details help the employees to ramp up in their new roles.
New hires get projects soon, so they aren't just limited to theoretical knowledge but have on-the-job learning. A project gives a reason to connect with stakeholders/team members and establish a working relationship. As a result, employees move up the learning curve fast, get those early wins, and stay motivated.
Comparably reviews show that 88% of Netflix employees said a direct manager was helpful with onboarding in the first 90 days. 83% of new hires socialized with team members outside work.
The emphasis on regular one-on-one meetings shows its results. Frequent communication ensures employees get the required help and establish a healthy work relationship.
➡️ Need more tips on onboarding new employees? Then, check out our ultimate guide to onboarding new employees efficiently.
At Zavvy, we don't see onboarding as a one-time activity where you just slap all documents on the new hire's face.
Onboarding is an experience where the new hire slowly adapts to the culture and gets adequate support till they are fully productive (and even after it).
If you noticed, Netflix is also trying to create an experience for their new hires.
You can replicate this experience using Zavvy. Let's see how.
You can import new hire data from your existing HRMS tool and create a preboarding workflow using Zavvy preboarding software to:
This workflow ensures you never get out of touch with new hires while you get busy in the next round of hiring.
One major part of Netflix onboarding is the buddy program. You can run an entire Onboarding Buddy Program using Zavvy to connect new hires with their buddies and coach buddies on how to help the new employee.
Using the Zavvy Onboarding software, you can create a structured onboarding experience by:
You can further assign any micro-learning lessons for a project or role-specific training if required apart from the onboarding journey.
In the onboarding journey, you can add tasks as reminders for one-to-one meetings. Zavvy also has Slack/teams integration to send reminders.
The best part about Zavvy?
Once onboarding is done, your employees don't just log off from the platform forever.
Instead, a new experience is waiting for your new hires. The platform continuously enables new employees by helping them with:
The best part is that you don't have to do it all alone. You can get started with one of the examples from our onboarding template gallery.
Plus, our experienced Employee experience experts are loaded with best practices and expert advice.
Together, we'll create exceptional onboarding experiences for your people.
Onboard and empower your employees with an all-in-one solution. Book a call with one of your experts today.