One of the (many) perks of getting to work at gap intelligence is the opportunity to earn an internal gapMBA taught by Professor Gary Peterson and Associate Professor Katie Hess. The year-long course is offered to any gap intelligence employee who wishes to gain the proper tools of how to become an effective manager as well as how it applies within our own culture. Our recent graduates were flown to Las Vegas for the day to tour the Zappos campus and see how corporate culture has defined a successful brand through the WOW of customer service. Although I graduated with my gapMBA two years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to join the new group of grads on a day trip in December. The list of valuable takeaways exceeds the scope of a short blog, so I have condensed my own top 10 from this recent trip.
One | The Interview Process
Zappos hires for cultural fit. In fact, one of their 10 values includes “create a little fun and weirdness”. Applicants are asked—on a scale of 1-10, how weird are you? If you’re on either extreme end of the spectrum, you’re probably not a good fit. They look for people who like to have fun and are passionate about something outside of work. They also encourage you to come as you are for interviews. If you wear a tie, be warned that you stand the chance of having it snipped from you neck and hung on the wall! If they do happen to snip your tie they make a charitable donation to a non-profit so it's all in good fun (and for a good cause).
Two | Zappos Pays Employees to Quit
You read that header correctly. A four-week intense training program gives new hires insight into their customer focused business as well as a deep immersion into their corporate culture and strategy. Upon completion of this training, Zappos extends “the offer”, which is a $3,000 bonus in addition to their regular salary if employees wish to quit right on the spot. According to our tour guide, very few actually take this offer because they do a great job hiring for fit in the beginning.
Three | Maximizing Serendipity
CEO Tony Hsieh believes that by creating an opportunity for meaningful collisions, great ideas emerge. Within the large campus, there are a number of places fully intended for employees to collide with one another. For example, there are exits on all four sides of their building, but only one is kept unlocked. It’s inconvenient, but it prioritizes having employees run into each other over leaving quickly. They also have a number of open snack areas designed to have people bump into each other between departments.
Four | Unique Work Spaces
The idea behind an entrepreneurial culture embraces a floor plan that inspires creativity. By allowing employees a large open space which they are free to decorate as they wish, it creates a welcoming environment to collaborate vs. individual offices which often lead to employees closing themselves off. Zappos resides in the former City Hall building in downtown Las Vegas, allowing ample space to house the 1500+ employees on campus. Open space leads to more communication and allows the ‘start-up’ culture to live on even when a company such as Zappos has long surpassed that level.
Five | Zollars
Zapponians have several peer-to-peer programs designed to reward each other. It is done through their own currency system and language ‘Zapanese’. In a ‘do more with less’ environment, the programs are affordable and scalable. Zollars—or Zappos Dollars are earned by participating in training through volunteering and answering questions, by other Zapponians through a bonus program (each employee can award up to $50/month for a job well done), through Hero Awards for embracing the culture and delivering the WOW of customer service, and through nominating fellow employees for a coveted covered parking spot (highly desirable in the Vegas heat). The unique currency can be traded in for Zappos related schwag such as clothing, gym bags, water bottles...the list goes on and on.
Six | Transparency
One of the core values, “Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication," is taken very seriously. Zappos takes pride in sharing everything (the good, the bad, and the ugly) with not only their employees, but their vendors and partners as well. Daily briefings and call stats are posted on a whiteboard for everyone to see each day. They are quick to inform of what they are doing and which course of action taken to resolve issues.
Seven | Trust
One of my favorite parts of the tour was hearing about how ALL employees are empowered to do what they can to make the customer experience so pleasant that they turn them into a customer for life. Employees are not required to stick to a script when speaking to customers, nor are they limited certain call times. They instill trust right away that they will make good decisions. From a financial standpoint, it makes perfect sense to incur the cost to ship out a new pair of shoes in gaining a long time customer over the years.
Eight | Benefits
Although I was not permitted to take a photo of the benefits package offered to employees, let’s just say it is incredibly generous. Full health, dental, and vision is offered. A 401K plan with employer match, paid maternity and paternity leave (including prenatal care), a $250 reimbursement for adopting a pet, flex spending accounts, and even partial reimbursements for adoption and some ‘elective’ surgeries.
Nine | Unconventional Management Styles
Managers are expected to spend roughly 10-20% of their department’s time on team building activities in order to develop relationships that live the core values Zappos embraces. This may include Easter egg hunts, barbecues, bowling alley parties, and an annual party at Tony Hsieh’s home held every January. Cultural assessments rather than performance evaluations are given in determining raises and promotions. Additionally, managers are responsible for carving out career paths within their departments based on a ‘regular individual contributor’ and a ‘super star’ career path for those who excel in living the culture.
Ten | Work-Life Integration
Zappos does not embody a workplace where employees simply clock in and out each day. They create teams that work well with each other both inside and outside the office environment. It is represented by one of their core values of “Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit”. The idea is that it doesn’t matter if work spills over into life and vice versa because the overall experience is happy, fun, creative, and productive. A ‘balance’ is unnecessary if you are able to integrate the two joyfully.
The day spent at Zappos was not only incredibly enjoyable, but it was wonderful to see employees truly living their culture. They didn’t hesitate to give each other a high-five or holler across the courtyard to say hello. The interactions were quite genuine. Besides, who could possibly be grumpy when your company has installed a ‘nap room’?
Do you have what it takes to be a gapper? Head over the careers section at gapintelligence.com to learn more about open positions. Find more info the bottom of our about page.