What Makes Zappos Culture So Strong?
Zappos is a big inspiration behind the creation and mission of CultureIQ (read about our founder’s involvement with the company here). And we’re certainly not alone in getting inspiration from Zappos. The company’s emphasis on customer service and internal culture has almost become the gold standard for how to prioritize company culture as a success factor.
While our founder Greg has visited the campus many times, some other members (myself included) of the CultureIQ team wanted to see the “WOW” factor of the new Zappos headquarters with our own eyes. Thus, a few of us embarked on a culture tour in their new downtown offices. And yes, it really was “WOW” worthy.
Zappos recently relocated to the former city hall building in downtown Las Vegas as part of Tony Hsieh’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area. Plus, the Zappos Family is always looking for ways to be involved in the community, and what’s more representative of the community than city hall?
From the minute the friendly Zapponian picked us up in the brightly colored van through the time that we waved goodbye to our tour guide, there is one word I’d used to describe what I witnessed during the tour: energy.
How do you create this great energy in your own workplace culture?
Here are a few things that stood out to me during my glimpse into what it’s like to be a Zapponian:
Culture collisions are key. In everything from the spatial nudges to work policies, Zappos encourages serendipitous encounters among employees. The idea is that these “culture collisions” create community, support, and creative thinking. As an example, every single employee, including the CEO, jumps in during holiday season to help with customer service busy season. In addition to creating collaboration that might not happen in a traditional setting, this also signifies that everyone is “in it together.”
How do you do this in your workplace culture? You can start by creating spaces that require employees from various departments and levels to interact. It can be as simple as an intentionally placed supply cart.
The ownership and autonomy of employees is strongly felt. Zapponians are trusted to get their work done (even if this means a quick break at Z Cafe) , and they feel great pride in their work. The customer experience department exemplifies this powerful concept. There aren’t call scripts or traditional metrics, which contributes to a genuine and contagious energy, one that can’t be faked over the phone to customers.
How do you do this in your workplace culture? Demonstrate that you value everyone’s opinions by encouraging employee voice and collecting regular feedback. Additionally, allow employees to bring their “interests” to work with them. Here’s an article in Harvard Business Review that discusses this concept.
Fun and work are not mutually exclusive. Related to the previous point, Zapponians have fun at work, while always contributing to the company’s success. “Create fun and a little weirdness” is Zappos Family Core Value #3. And they take their core values seriously. So much so that there is a colored ball pit in one of the rooms we walked through. It also isn’t rare to catch a Zapponian hanging around headquarters after their work is done to play a game of ping pong or catch up with a colleague.
How do you do this in your workplace culture? Fun doesn’t need to be expensive, nor does it need to include alcohol. To start, try incorporating fun into other company goals (like a weekly quiz about industry news) or cultural initiatives (like adding a theme to weekly meetings or employee recognition). Small acts of fun can give employees something to look forward to and keep energy high in your work environment.
Employees stick around. This became clear almost immediately, and I don’t just mean hanging around the office after finishing work. Employees receive license plate name tags that mark how long they have been with the company. As evidenced by the merchandising department we walked through, people collect and display these years with pride.
How do you do this in your workplace culture? Employee longevity is the result of multiple factors, but recognizing loyalty is a good place to start. Honor work anniversaries with a small act, gift, or mention. And you can get creative– this is an opportunity to add a little fun into the workplace!
I’ll leave you with this quote from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh: “For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.”