How Netflix Gets Rid Of Underperformers With The Keeper Test

Companies carry out detailed interviews to find out if job applicants would be a good fit for their roles, but a prominent tech company seems to carry out this operation in reverse.

Netflix has a “Keeper Test” which enables the company to get rid of people who aren’t contributing to the company. “What does it mean to be a manager at Netflix?” Netflix CTO Elizabeth Stone said on a podcast. “It would mean you should, with some frequency, be asking yourself that if this person on my team came to me and said, I’m leaving today, I have a different opportunity and I would like to take it, would I do everything I could to keep them at Netflix?” she added.

Stone said that this was Netflix’s Keeper Test. “If (the answer to the previous question) is no, then I should be having that tough conversation (right away). Should you really be here? Are you in the right role? If I might be a little bit relieved if you said you were leaving, (I should know). The reason the keeper test, and that question is useful, is because no one wants to think that way,” she explained.

Netflix’s Keeper test essentially requires managers to keep asking themselves if they still want someone on their team to remain on their team. Since most companies don’t regularly do this, lots of people who aren’t fitting into their roles can coast for years without contributing very much. But by regularly evaluating whether all members are positively contributing, and people their managers would want to remain on their teams, Netflix is able to weed out the underperformers faster than most.

Netflix has formalized the Keeper Test because it forces people to evaluate this difficult situation. “It’s very hard to say to someone, I think this isn’t the right fit. I think you should move on from the company. So we have to introduce some of those reflections in order to encourage the behavior. People ask me, am I passing your keeper test? So it becomes part of a regular manager direct report, one on one,” Stone said. “And it is just another way of saying, am I meeting your expectations? What’s going well? What’s not going well? How are you thinking about things?” she adds.