Yesterday, the New York Times ran a Q&A with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh about his vision for the company’s culture. In it, he describes some of the unusual yet seemingly effective programs and tools he’s implemented–including a free lunch for employees that allows them to mingle, an official “culture book” that outlines the company’s core values, and an interview process that includes the question “How weird are you?”–to help make Zappos not only a strong company but, also a fun place to work.
I met Tony Hsieh several months ago and after talking with him and reading this interview, it’s safe to say that the success of his company would not be possible without a unique culture that creates a fun, supportive, and communal environment where everyone is encouraged to participate and grow. Here’s what Hsieh had to say about his hiring philosophy:
Hiring senior-level talent is very hard, it’s hit or miss, and they can do a lot of damage to the culture. We’ve had bad experiences with that. So we have this thing called the pipeline, which is our vision for how we want to grow as a company. We’re hoping five years from now the vast, vast majority of all hires will actually be entry-level, but we’ll provide all the training and mentorship so that, over a five- to seven-year period, they can become a senior leader within the company. That will help protect our culture and also give all the employees a growth path professionally.
No matter what field you’re in Hsieh’s advice gives managers something to think about. It may be a bit zany, but it works. In fact, other companies have already started paying Hsieh to host seminars and tours on how to recreate the Zappos culture at their own organizations. Luckily, and yes, I’m a bit biased, Portfolio has managed to do alright on its own.
New York Times: On a Scale of 1 to 10, How Weird Are You?
BusinessWeek: Zappos Retails Its Culture