Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, brought his message of the importance of happiness to the SHRM conference in a morning keynote address on Tuesday.
He shared a bit of his personal history — making and selling pizzas while in college (eventually hiring as the Zappos CFO his No. 1 customer — who he found out was buying his pizzas and then selling them by the slice to college kids — and later, creating an online company he eventually sold to Microsoft when he dreaded going to work in the morning because it wasn’t fun anymore.
Selling out during the dot-com boom, he became an investor and ultimately decided to join Zappos, which he describes as “a service company that just happens to sell shoes.” It is a company designed to offer “the very best customer service and customer experience.” To that end, for example, Zappos offers free shipping both ways and a 365-day return policy.
But a company can’t offer excellent customer service, he said, if it doesn’t have an excellent company culture. So, everyone hired at Zappos goes through two types of interviews — one for skills and one for cultural fit. Regardless of skill level, individuals will not be hired unless they fit — and they may be fired for the same reason.
To ensure new hires are excited about the oportunity of working there, Zappos offers a bonus of a few thousand dollars if they want to quit during the training period — and everyone, regardless of job title, goes through the same training, which includes two weeks on the call center phones, he says.
His story has been covered a lot — especially since his 23-city book/bus tour last year – but it’s surely a welcome message for HR leaders, as they are the keepers of the culture — and as they are the executives who talk up the value of culture with their C-suite colleagues.
During those talks, they could share some of the research findings Hsieh talked about that link successful companies with both strong cultures and “counterintuitively,” offer a higher purpose beyond higher profits.
That vision, that purpose, that passion, he said, gets companies — and individuals — through the tough times. It inspires employees and seemlessly results in better performance — and higher profits.
“There’s a huge difference between motivation and inspiration,” he said. “Conmpanies with a higher purpose actually generate more profits in the long term.”