Equity on Demand, the Netflix Approach to Compensation

By David Larcker, Allan McCall, Brian Tayan
2010 | Case No. CG19

Netflix was among a small group of Silicon Valley companies to emerge from the technology bubble of the late 1990s a clear winner in terms of growth, market share, and profitability. That Netflix was able not only to prevail over this competition but also to thrive was largely attributable to the culture of freedom and responsibility inculcated by founder Reed Hastings. To foster this culture, the company adopted a series of unique employment practices that were meant to attract, retain, and motivate the type of employee that Netflix valued. Among these practices was a compensation system with several unconventional features. Whereas most companies provided compensation packages with a predetermined mix of cash and equity-based awards, Netflix turned the model on its head and allowed employees to request their own mix. Management was interested in finding out whether this practice supported or detracted from the company’s main objectives for its employees.

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