Today I was reading an article about Zappos, an online shoe retailer that is recognized as one the top 100 companies to work for. The Jan. 9, 2010 New York Times article, “On a Scale of 1 to 10, How Weird Are You?” features an interview with CEO Tony Hsieh in which he talks about the importance of company culture.
To define Zappos’ culture, he led a year-long process to articulate their 10 core values. In the article, he explains, “We wanted to come up with committable core values, meaning that we would actually be willing to hire and fire people based on these values, regardless of their individual job performance.” He engaged employees in helping to identify their 10 values:
- Deliver WOW through service.
- Embrace and drive change.
- Create fun and a little weirdness.
- Be adventurous, creative and open-minded.
- Pursue growth and learning.
- Build open and honest relationships with communication.
- Build a positive team and family spirit.
- Do more with less.
- Be passionate and determined
- Be humble.
Admittedly, there is a lot that could be quibbled over here. Are these values or competencies or both? Is is really fair to hold everyone accountable for being fun? Is is realistic that everyone have a personality that reflects embracing and driving change?
Technicalities aside, what Mr. Hsieh did was define success. He drew a line in the sand and said, “This is what I – we - expect. Period.” He’s ready to hire and fire based on these expectations. And study after study, Zappos is one of the best places to work.
This is such an outstanding example of backing up activities like hiring, interviewing, changing culture, etc. all the way back to defining expectations. It sounds so simple, but it’s hard work (took Zappos a year) and it can seem overwhelming and nebulous at the start. But the payoff is huge.
Once you know your expectations (on the company scale and at the individual level), so much of the other work falls into place. Applicant screening becomes a simple exercise in probing to see if a candidate can meet the expectations. Employee recruiting is simply sharing the expectations. Organizational alignment is quite straightforward, because the expectations at the top are clear.
Contact us if you’d like to start the conversation about your values – your expectations – I promise it will pay off.