The former head of talent at Netflix explains how to find the right people to solve your business challenges

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  • Patty McCord, former Netflix chief talent officer, thinks that when it comes to business we need to redefine “generations.”
  • McCord says that age doesn’t necessarily equate to the best person for the job.
  • Instead she suggests starting with the problem and hiring the person who can solve it.

Multigenerational workforces are where we’re at.

Gen Z, Millennials, Xennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, Traditionalists — we’re all working together.

I don’t know why we have to put such silly names on the generations. The word Millennial drives me crazy.

You’re in your 20s. What do you want? Everything. When do you want it? Now.

In that regard, we’ve all been or will be “Millennials.”

We need to think of the term “generation” differently when it comes to business.

If I were to describe the generations, I wouldn’t describe them with age, I would describe them as where you’re at in your career.

For the good of the company and its customers/consumers/clients, we shouldn’t be discriminating against fellow employees or potential candidates because they’re young and have new ideas, or seasoned and have lots of experience. We need both to run a successful company that identifies with all its customers.

Age doesn’t necessarily equate to the best person for the job, the most talented, or even the most mature.

In terms of maturity and judgment, I know a lot of very mature young people who have great judgment, who are very dedicated, who work hard and make a huge contribution. And I know a lot of really immature 50-year-olds who don’t work that hard anymore and kind of skate along and figure that all they have to do is be present to contribute.

Data shows that the Boomers can’t run the world until the end of time because there aren’t enough of us. It’s time to pass on the torch, and we’ve got to get really good at it.

Our future isn’t 55 years old. Our future is 25. So how do we make sure these young people are incredibly successful in contributing and bringing fresh ideas to our workforce for the good of the customer?

We shouldn’t feel threatened by Millennials. Instead we should look at all the places where we can blend our maturity, experience and scale with people who are new in the workplace so we can pass along that list more efficiently.

We can teach each other so much, that’s what’s fun these days.

It’s not about the person, it’s about the problem you want to solve

I look at staffing in a really different perspective. Instead of starting with the kinds of people that I want to hire, I recommend we start with the kind of problems we want to solve.

If you want to solve a problem that’s new and has never been tried before, where in order to figure it out you’re going to need to try out a lot of different things, make a lot of mistakes, do a lot of brainstorming and constantly come up with new ideas, then, in some instances, it’s helpful to have people who don’t have a lot of work experience. You want someone who has a fresh approach to things and really loves experimentation, someone who’s not afraid to try and fail.

Sometimes people with a lot of experience are less open-minded to trying new or recycled strategies. Maybe they’ve tried something similar before and it didn’t work, so now they’re not willing to give it another go.

On the other hand, if you’re solving a problem of complexity or scale, it’s helpful to have someone who has worked on those kinds of problems before. Someone who can look at the hard work that’s already been done and figure out how to use that strategy on a larger scale, and these people have probably been in the workplace longer.

However, typically when we think about a role, we think about a specific type of person we want to fill that role. “I want someone who’s smart, articulate, quick on their feet, brilliant… someone just like me.” Then we keep hiring ourselves over and over again.

And the problem with that is that it doesn’t address the customer.

By using my method of starting with the problem rather than the person, you’re more willing to have a diverse set of people with different opinions and perspectives on solving that problem.

We hope our products address a diverse group of people in the world. And so, I think it’s really important that our businesses reflect the people that we serve.

Patty McCord was chief talent officer at Netflix for 14 years and co-creator of the infamous “Netflix Culture Deck”. She is speaking at NextGen in Business event series taking place in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in May, to help businesses prepare for the multigenerational future. You can buy tickets here, and use the code BizInsider-150 to avail of a $150 discount.