Talent Contest: How Google, Netflix and Patagonia Attract Top Employees

Job seekers have been patiently waiting to display their talents to potential employers while the United States continues its recovery from the Great Recession. Prominent, recognizable businesses can provide them lucrative salaries and offer a sparkling resume booster. Meanwhile, lesser-known companies and start-ups offer less prestigious titles and lower compensation, forcing them to get creative to attract top talent.

Google, Netflix and Patagonia are companies in the former category. These prodigious companies, however, offer far more than fortune and prestige. Businesses looking to attract top talent should be prepared to offer an appreciable amount of vacation time, designated time for employees to do whatever they want, and a flexible attitude. Three of the world’s fastest growing companies are proving that freedom is the best recruiter.

The 20 Percent Rule

At Google, employees can ride a playground slide to another floor, work out in between meetings and eat at one of 11 gourmet cafeterias. To the average professional, it’s hard to imagine getting anything done with such amenities. It’s even more difficult considering Google’s real badge of honor: 20 percent time. Google employees can do anything they want one-fifth of the time they’re on the clock. Tired of sitting in front of the computer? Take a break and play pool. Got a pet project that could be Google’s next big thing? Use company time and resources to get it started.

Talented job-seekers view 20 percent time as more than just a break from the daily grind. It’s an opportunity to create. A sales job at Capital Processing Network or an underwriting position with Wells Fargo are much more appealing to top talent if they promise two hours per day dedicated to creative improvement. If your business wants to attract the best people, offer employees free time. Are you worried it will deter productivity? Google News, Google Reader and Google Maps are all products of 20 percent time.

Unlimited Vacation

Netflix offers users the freedom to browse a large database of TV shows and movies from their living rooms. Netflix has likewise provided its employees more freedom than ever since a 2004 shift in philosophy. CEO Reed Hastings released a slideshow explaining Netflix culture. Among the highlights, Netflix doesn’t limit employee vacation days. Instead, the movie rental company holds its employees to a high standard of quality, no matter how much time it takes.

The freedom to produce without a micro-managing supervisor is appealing to just about anyone. Of course some employees won’t be able to handle this freedom, so you may have to let the ones with low initiative go. Netflix offers generous severance packages for when this drastic measure must be taken.


Outdoor-apparel supplier Patagonia promotes a sense of adventure. That sentiment is more the skin deep, however. Company founder and owner Yvon Chounardwrote the book “Let My People Go Surfing,” which described his company’s culture. The crux: Patagonia values the balance between work and life. This means that employees are free to take time off during their workday to promote this balance. Like Netflix, Patagonia puts the onus on its employees to produce satisfactory work.


About the author

Dionne Wilkins is a financial advisor and finance writer for several online publications. She lives and writes in North Dakota.