ELVTR

Bharat Jayaraman: "HR Management prepares a company for the future."

Netflix's HR Business Partner shares the secret sauce of Netflix's success in talent management, core features that make superstar HRs from beginners, and some hints on how to build a healthy corporate culture.
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Bharat Jayaraman is now holding an HR Business Partner position at Netflix.

He works with Sales, Technology, and Operations leaders to build and scale high-performing teams. His resume includes such notable companies as Google, Facebook, and Amazon spanning across the US, Europe, and Asia.

"HR Managers exist to solve problems."

How is HR Manager role different from HR Business partner?

Essentially, an HR Manager is a catch-all title. They cover everything transactional. And, each endeavor will interpret this role differently.

While HR Business Partner is a much more strategical role, where you are trying to understand what the business is trying to achieve, then align the business goals with people's goal.

Most people think that HR is just recruiting, onboarding a keeping people out of legal troubles. Is it true?

Obviously, HR recruits, on-boards and attempts to pay employees competitively. This falls under making sure the business is organizationally ready for the future.

In general, HR Managers exist to solve problems. In fact, HR is a system of mechanisms, and a mechanism is HR’s approach to solving a problem.

However, the most important aspect of HR is preparing a company for the future. To do so, HR Managers must be workforce-centric, they must consider which skills the current workforce possesses, which skills they want to invest in, and how to achieve this.

What are the most common myths about an HR job? 

I can come up with 3 of those:

  • The most important one is that receiving an email from HR means you're in trouble. That doesn't mean that HRs won't contact you if something's wrong, but more often than not it has nothing to do with getting you in trouble;
  • Another one is the belief that an HR Manager can just get you a job in a company;
  • And the last one is this idea that an HR's decision can just increase your salary with no reason whatsoever.

“When you remove all the management-related frustrations and let people do their work — they are eager to take responsibility. That's how you can have more done with less.”

You've worked with companies in Northern America, Asia, and Europe. How is the work of HR different in those regions?

The difference is less about the country and the region, but more about the culture of the company.

A large enterprise, like Microsoft, Amazon, or Facebook will be fairly consistent in how they perceive employee issues and talent, no matter where they branch out to. In fact, a company’s culture derives from where it's headquartered.

And so, organizations typically infuse their regional culture into wherever they have staff. For example, Mitsubishi retains a Japanese company culture, even in their US offices.

You've worked for a lot of BigTech companies including Amazon (which has not the best employer reputation) and Netflix (which is much appreciated in the HR community). Are those justified perceptions? 

Speaking of company culture, Amazon and Netflix have more in common than you think. They just deploy very different business models.

Amazon is driven by word-of-mouth, and they don’t really care to clarify myths surrounding them, after all, they’re the preferred shopping destination.

Whereas, Netflix leans heavily on advertising and considers customer satisfaction to be a primary metric.

But, they have more in common than not. For example, both are written cultures, employees are discouraged from presenting ideas visually like PowerPoint. And so, those who would like to introduce a business proposal must write a memo or a narrative white-paper document, like in grad school.

And the similarities go on, both are precision and detail-oriented. Both care about doing what makes sense over consistently maintaining the same people practices in all business units.

Netflix is famous for its retention statistics and policies. What's their main secret?

Netflix is unique among Big Tech endeavors.

In regard to HR, product management practices, or decisions making, Netflix possesses almost no process. And, there’s no concept of hierarchy. In fact, individual contributors aren’t assigned levels. Everybody has the same title, regardless if they have 3 or 20 years of experience, it's a flat company.

I feel the lack of hierarchy and process allows for low friction and the ability to decentralize decisions. In fact, without hierarchy and process, employees are given a great deal of decision-making power. But, they are expected to balance power and responsibility. All of this goes back to Netflix’s culture.

The thing most people don't know about Netflix is that they existed for over 20 years having only up to 3000 employees. And still were productive.

The secret sauce here is a very flat structure, zero predetermined processes, and decentralized responsibilities.

When you remove all the management-related frustrations and let people do their work — they are eager to take responsibility. That's how you can have more done with less.

"Openness and transparency are the keys to growing awareness and building really inclusive teams."

What's the main complexity to building workplace diversity without slipping into positive discrimination?

When it comes to workplace inclusion, many companies are coming to the realization that the best way to tackle the issue is to truly represent the customer base. Yet, Netflix entertains the whole world, that's their mission. Aware of this, Netflix holds leaders accountable for achieving representation in workflow.

Regrettably, some organizations fall into the trap of saying “we’re not at liberty to discuss such and such.” However, when legal speak is removed and companies allow everything to be up for discussion, a degree of transparency is achieved and this transparency assists in reaching the goal.

For example, Netflix openly discusses controversial decisions and continually returns to the question of “how are we going to entertain the world if our workforce doesn't look like the people we're trying to entertain?” Admittedly, this is a very complex subject.

That is why openness and transparency are the keys to growing awareness and building really inclusive teams.

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What are the key aspects of developing a good employer brand?

When you look at the analytical data of what variable contributes to employer brand and you have to pick one — my pick would be the impact.

When a person's job allows them to solve a problem they're passionate about — one feels they make an impact. If a company can amplify this feeling — it amplifies the employer brand.

How does HR position at a start-up differ from the one in a Tech giant?

As an HR Manager at a start-up, the most challenging aspect would be recruiting. In fact, when a brand is big - HR's efforts are multiplied. Well-known companies have built a brand and this is, metaphorically, the wind in their sails. For example, Netflix’s mission is known to vendors and employees alike, and brand recognition attracts the right person for the role.

When an enterprise doesn’t have a recognizable brand, a company’s mission can easily become diluted. And so, a start-up must be careful as to who's telling the story of their brand. Overall, this story needs to be consistent and very, very tight.

In an attempt to preserve the brand’s storyboard, an endeavor must enlist a small group of individuals who are actively involved in the recruiting process. Think of it like this: hiring more recruiters, external agencies and vendors can be similar to making more holes in a leaking pipe.

In fact, if I were to create a start-up, I would invest time in context sharing, creating tribal knowledge between senior leaders, which's very, very important. Through this, I would ensure that everyone is aware of where I stubbed my toes, false starts, and pitfalls. This is the story to convey to potential candidates.

"One of the things that make superstars out of beginners is curiosity."

What is your motivation behind launching a course with us? 

I couldn't be more excited to teach HR Management at ELVTR. As HR Manager, I’ve spent many years assisting businesses to thrive by leveraging mankind’s most powerful resource — people. And, I love what I do.

I became a Teacher to debunk myths about the HR profession and create meaningful careers for others. Together, through case studies, students learn to become effective HR Manager, as we delve into the realities of the field.

How does a beginner become a superstar HR Manager? 

If you’re just getting into HR, don't make assumptions based on what you've heard.

Start asking questions like:

  • What are your people's problems?
  • What keeps you awake at night? (from a people standpoint)
  • What might stand in the way of your business being successful?

Remember, as an HR leader, you're there to solve problems and help others.

One of the things that make superstars out of beginners is curiosity. The more curious you are about company's problems, its product roadmap, and competitors — the better the teams you assemble and the results you generate.

With this level of curiosity about the business, you will be able to return to the office with a list of the roles and skills needed for smooth sailing. In fact, this is the attitude that’s required to go far.