Fosters High Productivity: Right Talent on The Right Role

On August 29, 1997, two gentlemen, Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings incorporated a company in the US state of Delaware. It was a US-based video business called Kibble, before the name was changed to, and later Netflix.


It began DVD rentals by mail in April 1998, and introduced its subscription model the following year. Nearly a decade later, Netflix started streaming video and changed the way people watch everything.


Netflix had been growing quickly, with about 120 employees and had been planning an IPO but was forced to put that plan on hold after the dot-com bubble burst and the September eleven attacks occurred.


In fact, it had to lay off a third of its employees. But by early 2002 their DVD-by-mail subscription business was growing like crazy since DVD player became a special Christmas gift the previous year. Suddenly they had far more work to do, with thirty percent fewer employees.


One day Patty McCord, former chief talent officer of Netflix, being concerned went over to talk with one of their best engineers. This engineer had managed three other engineers before the layoffs but now he was a one-man department working very long hours.

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So Patty, in order to encourage this very engineer, told him not to worry, “I hope to hire some help for you soon” she quickly said to him. Guess what his response was.


This engineer who was doing the work of three persons coupled with his, rather than feel excited, surprisingly responsed, “There’s no rush – I’m happier now.” What? Why would he say such a thing – happier doing the job of three engineers added to his?


In the article titled, How Netflix Reinvented HR, Patty McCord revealed that the three engineers that were laid off weren’t spectacular – they were merely adequate. Their manager whom Patty was talking to at the time realized when they were gone that he’d spent too much time riding herd on them and fixing their mistakes.


Comparing the two situations of working with those engineers and working alone he said, “I’ve learned that I’d rather work by myself than with subpar performers.”




No matter the role – small or big – in any organization, there is a certain recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that is required to perform that role excellently – that’s talent.

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If, for example, you run a school there is a certain pattern of thinking that makes great teachers perform excellently. So if you want to increase productivity in your school, you must first find out this (you can get a good consultant to help you do this) and ensure you bring on board teachers who think, feel and behave that way.


Policing, investigative journalism will require talent like cynicism: healthy mistrust.


The same with great nurses. I was at the hospital the other day and a friend of mine who had a loved one admitted in that hospital complained to me about the attitude of some nurses. It was so bad that he wondered why such people have to be nurses at all.


The problem is basically from the people that hire those nurses; they did not take time to consider the talent of the nurses they were recruiting. So they employed nurses that lacked empathy which is actually a talent of great nurses.


It’s been observed that when people of same level of experience and intelligence in a role are given same training and tools to work, those whose talents rightly fit the role distinguish themselves and perform better.

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A recent research conducted by McKinsey shows that, organizations that allocate right talents to right roles usually have a significant performance differentiator. “These organizations tend to outperform competitors 2-to-1.”


People add their most values when they play roles that match their talents. They may not necessarily lack the skill, knowledge and talent required to get work done but having them in the wrong role reduces their productivity.


It will be an error to employ someone who doesn’t have the talent you’re looking for hoping you will train them into performing the way you want.


In reality you can teach your customer service employee what to say to your customers, how to greet them but you can’t train them to care more for them. Care is something that happens naturally and unconsciously – it’s a talent. Therefore, the right approach to fostering productivity in any organization is to have a round peg on a round hole.

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