l-and-d-podcast-kenny-temowo
Training & Learning

L&D at Netflix: How to Lead With a Culture-First Approach With Kenny Temowo

Have you ever wondered what it's like to help drive learning and development at one of the world's most successful and well-known companies?

Netflix has become a trailblazer in home entertainment and is equally renowned for its people practices. If you’re like me, you’re incredibly interested in seeing how L&D works behind the big screen. 

In this episode of The Learning and Development Podcast, I speak with Kenny Temowo, Leadership Culture and Talent Innovation Lead, UK at Netflix, about what talent development looks like at an aspirational and ambitious brand like Netflix. 

Read on to hear how L&D at Netflix starts with culture and talent density, about leveraging in-the-moment feedback, and a sneak peek behind the scenes at Netflix’s onboarding process that promotes understanding of culture and product.

L&D at Netflix starts with culture

Culture is at the core of L&D at Netflix, as Kenny explains, which fits in with how culture informs everything they do as a global organization. 

“L&D revolves around our principle of talent density,” he says. “We are in a privileged position where we can hire great talent. So, the challenge from a learning and development perspective is when hiring such creative, high-caliber people, we need to ask what the best environment is for them to grow, be equipped, and develop.”

We are in a privileged position where we can hire great talent. So, the challenge from a learning development perspective is when hiring such creative, high-caliber people, we need to ask what the best environment is for them to grow, be equipped, and develop.

This is an excellent question for L&D because the successful application of skills cannot be distinct from any organization's culture. Culture is integral because it amplifies and restricts how people do things in your organization and determines the expected and rewarded behaviors.

Expert Insights Volume 2: How L&D Can Help You Build a Strong Company Culture

What's company culture without L&D?

By downloading, you agree to our privacy policy.

When excellence is the end goal

Company culture is the context for L&D at Netflix because the end goal of all company initiatives is excellence. 

“Reed Hastings, our Chairman and former CEO, often summarizes a culture as ‘the dream team makes fulfilling work’,” Kenny says. “That’s the concept of bringing in great people to do great work together, but the context is important. What are the challenges that these folks are facing in their roles?”

Kenny explains that at Netflix, the end goal is excellence, and the culture and learning function are enablers of that result of excellence. 

“Although we hire people who can get the job done, they're not perfect. They also want to grow,” he says. “So, the gaps we're seeing now are around what it looks like to enhance and refine that excellence. How do we grow people already established in their functional expertise?”

The gaps we're seeing now are around what it looks like to enhance and refine that excellence. How do we grow people already established in their functional expertise?

Netflix’s in-the-moment feedback culture

Kenny explains that there are many functional feedback models in the corporate world, but they leverage in-the-moment and ongoing feedback at Netflix. 

“We encourage people to give in-the-moment and ongoing feedback,” he says. “I think we do that better than other places I've worked at because a culture memo is front and center of what we do, so people are enabled and empowered to give feedback.”

Because they are part of a global organization, Netflix’s feedback culture benefits from cultures that tend to be more straightforward than others. “So all those things culturally, the national cultures that we have across the organization, all help foster that feedback culture, but we absolutely still have a lot of work to do,” Kenny says. 

Related: 9 Tips to Create a Truly Effective Peer Feedback Loop

Behind the scenes: Onboarding at Netflix

As the Netflix brand is so strong, it's crucial that people leave onboarding with a greater understanding and feeling for the product. 

“A lot of people know our content before they join the company, but we'll put our content front and center,” says Kenny. “We take people through what it is like to make a show and its different components. Sometimes, we might have cast members talking about different aspects and experiences.”

“It's quite an eye-opening experience when you get to see the nitty-gritty of it,” he explains. “And going back to the culture piece, we have a number of different ways in which we help people understand the culture. So, we do a good job of codifying that culture.”

It's quite an eye-opening experience when you get to see the nitty-gritty of it and going back to the culture piece, we have a number of different ways in which we help people understand the culture. So, we do a good job of codifying that culture.”

Balancing internal growth and external recruitment

On the skills-based organization discussion, Kenny explains that they have to return to the point that they tend to hire people with demonstrated expertise and skills. 

“That said, we are looking at what it looks like to have an internal ecosystem of talent that can very easily be mobile across different functions,” he says. “From an economic or commercial perspective, that makes sense because companies focus a lot on recruitment and talent acquisition, but it's much cheaper to hire internally.” 

“We're trying to get the right balance between buying externally and building internally through career mobility,” Kenny says. “We know that career mobility and growth is really important to people, but for us, it's more about how we create opportunities for people in terms of attrition and retention.”

Thanks to Kenny for sharing his insights with us! Check out our episode with Gabe Gloege on his framework for a skills-based approach to L&D or Ross Stevenson about leveraging generative AI as your L&D research and thought partner.

Want more peer insights on transforming workplace learning? Sign up to become a member of the L&D Collective or you can subscribe (below 👇) to our weekly newsletter to receive our latest posts directly in your inbox.

join-the-l-and-d-collective