Breaking Down Netflix’s First-Ever Inclusion Report

Kris Dunn Communication, Diversity, Employee Communications

In case you missed it, Netflix released its first-ever Inclusion Report in mid-January – you can get the report here.

TLDR: The Netflix Inclusion Report is a case study for how to handle any sensitive issue where you’ve made progress but are still likely to be criticized. Related: People love Netflix, they get credit for diversity in their content/product, and people just aren’t that likely to criticize them at the same level as Google, Microsoft or any traditional company.

Let’s start with the obvious. Most of you haven’t seen the Inclusion Report from Netflix, because no one really cares. We love Netflix! We see diversity in the content every night! And as a result, no one really digs into the details. The video announcing the report has just 11,000 views. This is Netflix and a video talking about their DEI results has 11K in views? The world either doesn’t care or Netflix is getting a giant pass. Probably a mixture of both.

Go get the report here. Automatically note that there’s no tabular data as a Google would report for you and I to slice and dice the numbers behind the progress. That should be your first clue that you’re dealing with not only progress on the inclusion front, but skilled communicators that actually changed how you consume media! (insert potential siren sound here)

Not leading with deep data cuts means Netflix gets to pick and choose what they report on, what they take credit for and what they say they are working on.

You’re dealing with a case study in great Talent Acquisition/HR Communications here, my friends.

How is Netflix driving the narrative in a way that tells a great story in Inclusion? Let me count the ways:

1–They control the definition of inclusion. This is fair, but only the real communicators get this. Netflix leads with the fact that they are a GREAT place to work for women, which is relevant, should be celebrated and I’m applauding. But make no mistake – they are controlling the narrative, sharing the following first:

Women make up half of our workforce (47.1%), including at the leadership level: directors and above (47.8%), vice presidents (43.7%) and senior leadership (47.6%).

Epic stats. And as Salesforce first understood in the DEI game, being a great place to work for women matters. So it leads, because it’s a primary strength. Kudos, both for the work that went into this, and for the call to lead with it.

2–If the big picture is good related to underrepresented racial and/or ethnic backgrounds, aggregate it together to show the strength and don’t break it down by group. The broad story is good for Netflix, so the big picture is the lead here, with no deeper data provided:

Nearly half of our U.S. workforce (46.4%) and leadership (42.0%, director level and above) are made up of people from one or more underrepresented racial and/or ethnic backgrounds, including Black, Latinx or Hispanic, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Pacific Islander backgrounds. 

That’s great stat. But not breaking down the data in your lead doesn’t give us all of what we need. Consider that Google’s 2020 Diversity report leads by showing an overall percentage of representation across the entire workforce that’s in the same range – in the high 40’s. The leadership number at Google lags a bit at 36% – but is in range. The biggest place Google trails is opportunity for women.

3. Get in front of areas of focus and talk about progress, even if it trails the goal you’re ultimately aiming for. While the numbers may not be where they want them to be, Netflix shares that they have doubled representation of Black employees in the last 3 years. Meaningful for sure:

The number of Black employees in the U.S. doubled in the last three years to 8% of our workforce and 9% of our leadership (director level and above).

There’s real progress in that number and while challenging the efforts and that number would still be a focus to the external world, in 2021 Netflix made progress and took credit for it.

The report goes on to talk about all the things they are working on in the DEI space, which are meaningful and substantial.

Great results for Netflix. More importantly, as a media company they understand how to communicate the wins, but also how to present the challenges in a way that maximizes their case.

We can all learn from how Netflix communicates in this area.