21 August 2015

Whilst it has been incredibly encouraging to see so many well-known brands make changes for new parents, there is certainly a word of warning in the Netflix’s baby leave tale.

Striking the right balance for motivation can as challenging as a game of chess.

Striking the right balance for motivation can be as challenging as a game of chess.

Announcing to the press recently that there would be up a year of paid baby leave for full-time workers who became new parents, the streaming giant was furnished with praise for its forward-thinking approach to work-life balance.

However, today it has been announced that the year’s leave only applies to one area of the business and doesn’t extend beyond the internet video service department. Whilst that is a sizeable amount of people, around 2,000 team mates, how does it leave those other departments working under the Netflix brand feeling?

It can be incredibly demotivating for employees to see significant benefits advertised in the press for the team, and have them ultimately not apply to them.

Our job as the head of these companies is to motivate whole teams. Whilst not all businesses can make these extravagant gestures or accommodate such a long time for baby leave, there is plenty that can be done. The key is that it is company-wide or that there are tailored benefits for each department. No team should feel neglected.

On top of the internal issues this revelation has caused, there is the additional media storm. Now news coverage of the brand has transformed an incredible concept for modern businesses, into a failed PR-stunt. The focus has shifted to the amount that each department is paid and that those with higher salaries, it seems, are getting the bigger benefits like the offer of a year’s ‘baby leave’.

It is such a shame that what had seemed like a fantastic example of global tech brands setting a precedent and changing the future of big business, has now opened up a world of critique for the fast-growing company. The big issue is the fact that they went to market with an all-encompassing idea. Husbands and wives will have told their spouses that this is life changing, it is. Now, they are being told that that’s not applicable to them. If you are going to vary salary, commission structure or benefits, it is important to lay that out and communicate it at the start. I think, had this have been done with Netflix, there’d be much less outcry.

It harks back to my belief in running a business as you would run a family. If you have a family, you don’t give one child better benefits from another, do you? That should be the same for families.

It is incredible that they are able to do this at all, we offer 16 weeks at full pay. But, I would rather be able to offer these 16 weeks across the whole company than offer special benefits to just a select few.

Running a business, at any level, is always about learning. It’s a constant quest for knowledge and although I am sure that this is just a small bump in the road for Netflix, it has proven a valuable lesson to us all on employee satisfaction and PR.

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