The One Where You Get to Drink

Zapoos HippoEarlier this week I had a phone/video call with a friend in Australia about all manner of things related to work, business, and HR. As the conversation progressed we entered the realm of HR/business cliches when we got to talking about Zappos. It’s a cliche of course, because ‘replicating’ the Zappos culture is the wet unrealistic dream of numerous HR ladies and misguided organizational leaders. Therefore, any time the name Zappos is uttered in reverential tones, we are to take a drink.

Try it. It’s fun.

In any event, the two of us got to chatting about Zappos since a few months ago, during some trips to Vegas, he and I both went on tours of the HQ. While we didn’t go at the same time, we did end up being there within weeks of each other.

Naturally, as a good HR lady I wanted to take the tour for a number of years. It finally came to pass when my friends at Kronos arranged a visit for bloggers, press and analysts during the recent Kronos Works conference which meant that one afternoon a group of 20 hopped on a charter bus and headed from the Strip to downtown Vegas.

I was prepared of course; I know a few people who work there and I also follow the various #insidezappos accounts. I’ve seen pictures and heard stories from friends and I’ve read my share of insider reports. Over the years I’ve rolled my eyes when numerous ‘motivational” speakers with zero exposure to the real-world-of-work have breathlessly exhorted HR audience members to “be like Zappos.” I enjoyed Tony Hsieh’s book, thought the whole holacracy movement was crap, and applauded the recruiting team for eliminating job postings.

So…I was prepared for the tour. But still, let me tell you, I walked out of there in some serious fan girl mode. (Note – per a Zappos Sr. HR Manager I spoke with, there have been approximately 20,000 people who have gone on the tour in 2014).

Of course this went well beyond the putting green, hammocks, and free food. While I gasped and gaggled at the executive’s cubicles (cheek to jowl with their team members) and the throne in the room of the “coach” who is available to meet with any/all employees, there was way more to it than the sights, sounds and colors.

Because those sorts of ‘things’ – those perks, activities, and behaviors  – are all just outward manifestation of what’s underneath. And what’s underneath is solid, real and not manufactured.

It’s certainly not an environment for everyone. When I posted this photo of the HR Department there were friends and colleagues on my SM channels who didn’t believe that THIS was HR; after all, if you’re used to working in an insurance company or financial institution where the HR team attempts to set themselves above everyone else (“we have to be impartial!”) you’re probably not going to be comfortable sitting in an open, industrial environment with an electric fireplace and a ball pit (a la your neighborhood Chuck E. Cheese restaurant) situated underneath the Open Enrollment informational poster wall.

Zappos HR Dept

So yeah; I dug it. A lot.

Prosit!

 

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