Zappos WOWs with culture

Zappos is no stranger to creating amazing company culture - it’s in their very core sense of being. The online shoe retailer’s values include “delivering WOW through service” and embracing “fun and a little weirdness”. The entire culture is carefully crafted around those values and instilled in employees day in, day out. Zappos really cares about its people’s happiness above all else, so a positive employee experience is key to its operations.

These are some ways in which Zappos delivers happiness to its employees and ultimately drives value for the organization.

Everyone’s in the family

CEO Tony Hsieh’s idea around fostering positivity in employees is simple: if you have friendler employees, they’ll be friendlier to customers. That’s why Zappos emphasizes community and family as a means to promote happiness.

Zappos really cares about its employees getting to know each other. Employees get to play the “Face Game”, where you have to enter the name of another employee as a profile picture pops up. Whether you get it right or not, you’ll still see a profile of that person so you can find out more about them. This simple gesture goes a long way in making people more engaged with the people they work.

Hiring for great, fun people

Hiring is quite unconventional at Zappos, and while skills are important to hire for, culture fit is essential. Not only is Zappos famous for asking the question “on a scale of 1-10, how weird are you”, but also some candidates can participate in one or more company events as part of the selection process. These tactics work to get to know the real person, rather than just the impressive candidate.

No matter what position you’re in, once you’re hired you’ll go through the same training as call center reps - actually on the front lines of interacting with the customer. Culture fit is so important at Zappos that the company offers new hires $2,000 to quit after they complete this training if they don’t think it’s the right fit. Could sound enticing to some, but the company wants to make sure everyone is committed and included.

Radical sharing

Tony Hsieh has always been a proponent of extreme transparency, even going so far as to say that anything that isn’t legally an issue will be shared with employees. The policy stems from the idea that if employees are working off of the same context, they’ll be more productive and accurate in their work.

In 2014, Tony Hsieh introduced a radical form of operating called Holacracy. This system emphasizes self-management and self-organization, with little oversight from managers and more ownership of roles. The jury is still out on whether Holacracy really works, as it can be difficult to coordinate at scale and can result in ambiguity. Either way, Zappos still makes a point to put people first as it continues to work out the kinks in this transformative system.

In Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness, Hsieh promotes work-life integration, saying it would be “ideal if you can be the same person at home as you are in the office, and vice versa. And when people actually feel comfortable being themselves, so much creativity comes out of that.” These strategies, and so many more build to letting employees be themselves, and cultivating the positive energy that results from that to increase productivity and happiness.

The “people first” formula works on multiple levels. Zappos’s Net Promoter Score stands at a solid 60 (in comparison, the online shopping category had an average NPS of 45). The customer experience is so great that 75% of Zappos customers are repeat buyers. In 2016, employee turnover was at the lowest it’s ever been at the company. These metrics, and many more, demonstrate the impact of a company that scaled tremendously and still maintained a unique and perceptive team identity.


Looking to WOW with culture like Zappos? Request a demo of Five to Nine to increase connectivity in your organization.


Pedro Suarez