Netflix And The Break From Corporate Policy

Found this courtesy of TechCrunch and a blog called Hacking Netflix. It's a way different take on corporate policy, from an Internet company I have patronized for years. Actually, my family dumped cable TV because of Netflix. What's noteworthy for travel management pros? 

• Slide 41: "Most companies curtail freedom as they get bigger."
• Slide 42: "Most companies curtail freedom as they grow to avoid errors (sounds pretty good to avoid errors)."
• Slide 70: "Most companies have complex policies around what you can expense, how you travel, what gifts you can accept, etc. Plus they have whole departments to verify compliance with these policies."
• Slide 71: "Netflix policies for expensing, entertainment, gifts and travel: 'Act in Netflix's best interest (5 words long).' "

The next slide uses guidelines and phrases that I have heard over the years from travel managers at some other companies, such as "travel as if it were your own money." But, naturally, those companies employ a travel manager. Something tells me Netflix does not, but I have emailed its media relations department to check.

[UPDATE: In response I got an automated message saying this: "Thank you for your interest in Netflix. At this time, your services are not a fit for our current business objectives. We will keep your information on file should our needs change." For a company that seems to have some cool employee policies, their media relations are terrible. No phone number listed for a press contact, either. Me stop whining now.]

All of this reminds me of Google's unique travel policy, which is certainly more detailed than "five words" but which as of last year allowed travelers more freedom than is normally found in Corporate America, including the ability to book wherever they want.

In these and other cases, it's all about employee retention over travel expense. This of course is not lost on more traditional corporations. Everyone gets that the more onerous your cost-saving policies are, the less likely you are to retain and attract the best people. And not everyone gets to live or do business in the real or proverbial Silicon Valley, where competition for talent is greatest. But will Internet-era companies and next-generation employees force a new balance? I think so. As I have written on this blog and in The Beat itself, new technologies and software platforms are enabling a break from structured corporate policy, and I'm not sure of whether that's a good thing for travel management.

By the way, former Expedia exec Rich Barton is on the Netflix board. He co-founded Zillow and Glassdoor, another employee-empowering force.