Inside Zappos’ Workplace Culture

Any time you see a list of world-class cultures across the world, chances are the online retailer and customer service business is guaranteed to be in the top ten.

At Zappos, an engaging workplace culture comes first. Their number one core value is famously, “Delivering Happiness”. The philosophy and uncompromising expectation at Zappos is to WOW with service and experience, whether internally with co-workers or externally with customers and partners. 

On a recent trip to the US, Culture & Leadership Partner Dan Czura was invited to visit the powerhouse that is Zappos, including a tour of the office in Las Vegas, meeting the staff from the contact centre as well as meeting with the Head of Engagement and Head of Culture. Dan was able to see and feel firsthand some examples of their workplace culture in action, and in this blog he reports back to us about some of the things he learned. 

On vision 

“The first thing I noticed was how clear everyone was on the vision at Zappos. The values weren’t just written up on the walls. People were speaking about the vision and values constantly, so when anybody had a conversation, they would discuss: ‘How do I deliver happiness for my customers?’ or ‘How do I deliver happiness to my vendors or my team?’”

On accountability 

“People were holding each other accountable by checking in with each other and asking questions such as: ‘What is it that you’re doing to drive employee engagement this week?’ or ‘What are you most proud of in your efforts to wow customers over the past month?’ These kinds of questions kept the focus on the customer and staff were proud to be able to share what they were doing to grow the business.”

On culture fit

“There’s that old saying of ‘hiring slow and firing fast’ and this is something Zappos really embraces. One of the guys I spoke to said it took him six months before he was actually hired. There’s a joke going around that it’s harder to get into Zappos than it is to get into Harvard!

The idea that the cultural fit is far more important than the technical fit is no more evident in some of the recruitment questions like, ‘What’s your favorite swear word?’ or ‘What would you do in a zombie apocalypse?’ Now, what this really talks to is one of their values: create fun and a little weirdness.” 

On bringing teams together

“Tony Hsieh has come up with great ways to bring together and connect people from different parts of the business. For example, I happened to be in the office for the finale of Game of Thrones (GoT), and the episode was being shown in their cinema, the result being GoT fans at Zappos could come together from different departments to watch and debrief afterwards. Another way of creating what Tony calls “collisionable moments” was my favourite meeting room at Zappos – the ball pit, as in one of those colourful ball pits in kids’ playgrounds. How can you not be creative in such an environment?”

To hear more from Dan about the key learnings of his visit to Zappos, take four minutes to watch his video below—feel free to share this with colleagues or anyone you know who might get value from this. 


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