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What is the process if a new developer doesn't do well?

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

What's your process when a new hire doesn't quite work out – the team member doesn't really fit in too well or doesn't work so well?

Jordanna Kwok: I think it depends on what didn't work well and it could go both ways. It could be the candidate or the new team member decides that, "This isn't for me", and that's fine, we'll talk through how to either is it the right team or is it the right role, and then if it turns out that, hey, Netflix just isn't the place then, yeah, we will have a mutual agreement that this is a departure. No harm done, everyone would still be happy that they've had that experience.

But then on the other hand there is not a great fit in terms of performance. I think that's the thing that I think most people worry about: if I join, am I going to perform, and if I'm not going to perform am I going to get fired? I'm sure there's a lot of misconceptions out there about firing at Netflix in particular.

And it's not going to be a surprise, it's not going to be like one day, it doesn't work out and you're suddenly like, oh, that doesn't happen.

Paul Hudson: Clear your desk, off you go.

Jordanna Kwok: No, unless you did something really egregious; that's when we would have zero tolerance. For example you do something illegal – that certainly is not one of those things that you would get a second chance for. But say it's a performance-related reason, I'll go back to communication because that's such a big thing. Say maybe this person's communication skills aren't up to snuff, maybe it needs some work, and maybe because of their non-communication it caused a lot of churn.

"We won't just make assumptions that it is skills deficit, it could be something else that's going on."

So you might have other team members or maybe cross-functional teams saying, "what happened to this project, we didn't hear anything from this person.” And so it would be very direct feedback. It's all about feedback to team members – “hey, we're hearing from other partnering teams that you haven't been communicating, what's up with that? Can we work to fix this?” And then we will work together to address the issue. And if it can't be addressed, say it happens again, this is where it comes back it becoming a pattern, it's recurring.

Then we need to dig deeper to see is it because of a specific thing going on in their life? We won't just make assumptions that it’s a skills deficit, it could be something else that's going on. Especially during this pandemic where there's so much going on, we don't want to penalize someone if performance does suffer and they are going through a rough time. But if it’s something that can't be fixed, the ideal scenario is that there's a recognition there – a mutual agreement, a mutual departure.

However, that doesn't happen in all cases. There are people who will be surprised, mainly because they might not accept the feedback to begin with. So maybe they're like, "my communication is fine, it's not a problem", even though there might be a lot of other people complaining about it, and other people getting negatively impacted by their behavior. But if we're giving the feedback and they're not receiving it, not internalizing it, and not fixing the issue, and we have to let them go, of course I think there will be some amount of surprise there. So, I will have to say that would be the worst case scenario for something not working out.

"We want people to land on their feet and certainly we want to help people get their next gig."

Paul Hudson: Am I correct in thinking that Netflix has a golden parachute policy? We'll literally pay you to leave the company, I think it's three to four months of salary?

Jordanna Kwok: There is severance, yes.

Paul Hudson: Sorry, severance. “We tried, it didn't quite work out, but we want you to go on happy terms, go to find another job.” Because I live in the English countryside, four months of Netflix salary would probably buy a house around here!

Jordanna Kwok: It's a generous severance package – we want people to land on their feet and certainly we want to help people get their next gig. Say the communication didn't work out, maybe there's another place where their communication style works way better and we just hope that we can help them get back on their feet and find that environment or company that works out for them.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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