Of course, you don’t have to read the book to know that Zappos is a great place to work. You have probably already learned that from browsing the covers of BusinessWeek, Inc., or Fortune magazines, where Zappos is listed as one of the best companies in the world to work for. But in Delivering Happiness, Hsieh really takes readers inside the nuts and bolts of Zappos to explain what makes it so special (you can read more about this on my Positive Psychology News Daily blog: “Delivering Happiness: Zappos and Positive Psychology”.)
Without giving away the details from the book (because I think everyone should go read it,) here’s why I think Zappos is the workplace utopia of the 21st century:
1. It’s not about “work-life balance”. The whole work-life balance concept implies that work is bad, and life is good. Zappos tries to merge the two: creating workplace culture values that apply to life outside of work and allowing employees to bring their own personality to their jobs. Their mission “to live and deliver WOW” transcends their working hours.
2. Everyone has a voice. Rather than a traditional employee handbook, Zappos provides all new employees with their culture book, which includes notes from all of the existing employees. The culture is not handed down from above; it is created by the individuals who make up the workforce.
3. The customers and the employees are all human. Hotelier Chip Conley, another business leader who has successfully applied principles of positive psychology to his work, calls this “the most neglected fact in business.” He even spoke about it at last month’s Zappos all-hands meeting (see replay here). Zappos allows employees and customers to be themselves rather than following pre-defined scripts. They also encourage social interaction, by forcing employees to identify photos of their co-workers to log into their computers for example.
4. They strive to be their best. Zappos claims their business model is not about selling shoes . . . it’s about being the very best in customer service. There is something very energizing about striving to be your best in the service of others. For many years I worked for Four Seasons Hotels which also had the philosophy of being the very best in customer service. When it came time for me to leave Four Seasons, I didn’t want to leave that drive to be #1. It took me 5 years of searching to find another company where my passion to be the best was a good fit.
5. Their mission has meaning. Question: How do you get thousands of employees excited about selling shoes? Answer: You don’t. The Zappos mission is not about selling shoes, it is about “delivering happiness” (hence the name of the book.) And now, with the launch of ZapposInsights, they are expanding their mission to teach the world a new way of doing business. One in which employee and customer (both human, remember) love the interaction.
The thoughts above are my own, and not a regurgitation of the ideas that Hsieh shares in his book. If you want Tony Hsieh’s perspective on why (and how) Zappos has become the workplace utopia of the 21st century, read the book. You’ll want an extra copy for your boss and maybe a few others for key decision makers in your own organization. And you might want to brush up your resume . . . in case you decide to apply for a job at Zappos.
Note: Zappos has generously provided me with an extra advance paperback copy of the book to give away to my readers. I will be randomly selecting a winner from among the comments on this blog and my Positive Psychology News Daily blog to receive a free copy. Be sure to comment on both blogs to increase your chances! Winner will be selected and notified on June 21.
References and recommended reading:
Hsieh, T. (2010). Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. New York: Hachette.