Zappos – Delivering Happy Employees: People’s Insights Volume 2, Issue 33

What makes Zappos, Zappos? is an online shoe and clothing shop which has fostered an employee-centric culture and has been named in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list for five years in a row.

Since its inception in 1999, Zappos has grown to be the largest online shoe store. In July 2009, the company was acquired by in an all-stock deal worth about $1.2 billion.


Zappos believes in delivering happiness, both to customers and employees, and has built a culture of delivering happiness internally through its core values. Here are 7 things Zappos has introduced to deliver happy employees

1. Happiness Culture

Zappos encourages employees to “create fun and a little weirdness” in the workplace and build personal connections with co-workers.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos said:

“Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own.” 

Huffington Post contributor Demi Wetzel pointed out that Zappos’ culture is all about ‘its people’:

 “Zappos, who happens to nail company culture, gives an entire public tour that showcases how zany and wonderful their people are. But the core of Zappos culture is the people and they know it. Of course they offer fun perks to the team but at the end of every quarter, they value their team.”

Zappos celebrates its people’s successes with  parties, carnivals, employee bonuses, and thank-you gifts, for every employee.

Take a look at Zappos’ culture in this video created by employees in 2010:

2. Explicit Core Values

Zappos culture is guided by a set of core values which aims to empower employees, create a sense of community in the workplace, and serve a higher purpose beyond bottom-line metrics. Here are the 10 core values that Zappos lives by:

Core values 3

The Guardian’s Jeffrey Hollender noted that all employees are challenged to make at least one improvement, every week, that reflects the company’s core values. Both personal and professional growth is expected.


3. Celebration Bell

Many departments in Zappos have a bell hanging in their area that can be used by all to make an announcement. Managers use this to announce promotions or goals being met, and employees use it to thank others or announce a project completion.

4. Parades

Zappos has parades all the time, but when something big happens – like a million-dollar sales record – it calls for a special parade. The  department in question gets together and parades through the building with music and costumes, and often candy is thrown into the cubicles of those in the path of the parade.

parade 5

5. Culture Book

Zappos has a culture book, written by employees every year. It details how people feel about the Zappos culture and how they reinforce and develop the culture every day. Zappos gives these culture books to visitors who tour the company (hr professionals seeking to learn, and potential employees seeking to join).

Click here for a video of the Zappos Virtual Tour 

In fact, Zappos also has a separate space,  Zappos Insights, devoted entirely to helping other businesses enhance their corporate culture and develop an innovative workplace.

In his book Delivering Happiness, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shares how a very different kind of corporate culture is a powerful model for achieving success — and how by focusing on the happiness of those around you, you can dramatically increase your own. The book has sold over 220,000 copies internationally and topped the New York Times Best Seller list.


6. ‘Zappos pays you to quit’ offer

After four weeks of extensive training on the company’s processes, culture and underlying values, new hires receive what Zappos calls the “offer”. If the new hires wish to quit, Zappos pays them for the amount of time they have worked and offers them a bonus. In 2008 the bonus was $1,000. Today, it’s $4,000. An unusual offer, the company says it’s a way of ensuring employee buy-in.

In a blog post on the Harvard Business Review, cofounder of Fast Company Bill Taylor noted:

“Why? Because if you’re willing to take the company up on The Offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture–which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick–and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)”

Staffing expert Tim Sackett shares why other companies haven’t followed in the footsteps of  the “darling of the HR world”:

“It hasn’t caught on because your leadership is afraid your good hires would actually take you up on your offer! 

“Of all the HR gimmicks Zappos does, offering employees at bonus at 90 days is the best one because it puts everything on the table. It’s the one thing they did that other companies are too afraid to steal!”


7. Extraordinary measures for customers

Zappos doesn’t sell itself on the strength of its online shop but its customer experience. Serving customers is a huge part of Zappos culture; every new employee irrespective of their position starts out by answering phones in the call center. The key to Zappos customer service? The company doesn’t have a script directing how call employees should interact with customers on the calls.


The outcome? Extraordinary customer service, that’s unique and fun.For instance, in 2011, Zappos sent flowers to a woman who ordered six different pairs of shoes because her feet were damaged by harsh medical treatments. A Zappos employee once spent a record 10 hours talking to a customer who ended up buying a pair of Uggs.

Zappos leads by example. The company has a 365 day return policy and re-directs customers to competitor’s websites when a certain product is not available on its own site. Employees clearly are given no boundaries when it comes to customer satisfaction.

This reflects on the bottom-line too – Zappos reports that 75% of their orders come from repeat customers.

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A competitive differentiator

Compared to employees at many mid-size companies, Zappos’ staff earns less and  receives fewer perks. But Zappos employees get something bigger in return – complete engagement in the business at all levels. Zappos has actually made employee engagement its competitive differentiator.


Alethea Fernandes, Senior Account Manager at MSLGROUP (India), commented that employee engagement is integral in the success of any organization:

“In service-oriented organisations, employees are not only the hands and legs, but also the heart and soul of the organisation.  Everything else becomes secondary. So if organisations want to succeed and grow, they must have a passionate set of inspired individuals. And I strongly believe that if your employees are not happy, chances are they’ll be less passionate about work.  Passionate, Happy Employees – that’s vital. It’s not a skill set that can be taught.

“The Zappos employee engagement programme stresses on the importance of a healthy work culture -– one that employees are not just a part of but also identify with. Their true success lies in the fact that their employees breathe the organisation culture.”

Source: CNN Money

*Bonus* 8. Effective use of Twitter

Zappos uses Twitter to communicate with its customer base of “Zapponians.” Zappos Conversations uses Twitter’s Streaming API to look for all the tweets that mention @Zappos and @Zappos_Service. Tweets of conversations, questions, and comments are then streamed on the Zappos website and on a virtual Tweet Wall, to show people how Zappos addresses and solves customer issues (and to show employees how people are responding).

Zappos’ happiness culture and employee empowerment impacts its performance on social media too, with 1,200 conversations taking place between Zappos and its customers on Twitter every month.

Twitter 11


MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.

As an example, 100+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on reputation, employee engagement and citizenship on the MSLGROUP Insights Network.

Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights. We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities.We have further synthesized the insights from 2012 to provide foresights for business leaders and changemakers — in the ten-part People’s Insights Annual Report titled Now & Next: Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement, also available as a Kindle eBook.

As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at

Annie Sunny

5 Responses to “Zappos – Delivering Happy Employees: People’s Insights Volume 2, Issue 33”

  1. @Aletheaius

    Zappos – Delivering Happy Employees: People’s Insights Volume 2, Issue 33

  2. Annie Sunny (@Underthesun19)

    @Aletheaius quoted in my latest post on Zappos creating happy employess #peopleslab #employeeengagement

  3. Lokesh Srivastava (@loki2585)

    RT @Underthesun19: @Aletheaius quoted in my latest post on Zappos creating happy employess #peopleslab #employeeengagement…

  4. @Qwalify

    RT @peopleslab: Issue 33: 7 great things Zappos is doing, you should do too #employeeengagement

  5. @Guerrilha

    What makes Zappos, Zappos? Great article #PeoplesLab:


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