We’ve always heard good things about the Zappos company culture and knew we had to get an inside look at everything that happens behind the scenes. We talked to Amy McKay (an employee for a little over a year) and Autumn Wilkins (an employee who has worked at Zappos for almost four years) to get two perspectives on the Zappos work culture. Whether you’re a job seeker looking for a positive company to work for or you’re a business owner looking for company culture tactics to mirror, this read is for you.
Tell us a little about yourselves, your positions, & how you ended up at Zappos.
Amy: My name is Amy and I’ve been a part of the Zappos company for just over a year. I started my Zappos journey on the Customer Loyalty Team, assisting customers all over the country with whatever they might need. Most recently, I have joined the Resource Desk – a specialty team created to assist both customers and employees with providing additional support in more time-consuming circumstances. We call ourselves Pirates (because we’re the Rrrrr-Desk … get it?!) but I also like to think of my team as the “ghost busters” of the call center! J We are problem solvers!
Before Zappos, I had hit a plateau. I was so unhappy with my day-to-day job and knew I had to make a big change. I didn’t know much about Zappos, but would drive by the headquarters on my way home from work every day and somehow I knew that I had to be a part of this company. After going through the application process and being hired, I knew that only positive changes were ahead of me and I haven’t looked back since!
Autumn: My name is Autumn! I work in the Production Studio for Zappos, but more commonly known as the “Photo Studio.” I am the person on-screen that tells you about our fabulous women’s and girls’ shoes and handbags. I’ve been with the studio for almost 5 months. It’s a lot of fun J I started with Zappos on May 7, 2012 and started as a member of the Customer Loyalty Team(call center). I honestly didn’t know much about Zappos, other than seeing signs on the freeway, until a friend told me they were hiring. She told me all about the culture and how much fun it would be to work there. The one thing that sold me was that she saw a girl with pink hair walking around playing her ukulele. I gave it a chance, and what a great decision I have made! (I also play the ukulele and currently have pink hair!)
If you had to describe the Zappos work culture in three words, what would they be and why?
Amy: Unique. Unexpected. Fun! The Zappos culture is unlike anything I have ever experienced before and I am constantly amazed by it. This company continues to surprise me every day with all the tricks Zappos has up their sleeve!
Autumn: Fun, quirky, diverse. Zappos culture is known for being fun and a little weird. I love that so much! Everyone is truly free to express themselves fully. I also say diverse because I have never worked in a place with so many different kinds of people. It has helped me develop a more open mind and welcome all walks of life into my own.
What kind of organizational structure does Zappos have?
Amy: Holacracy is a self-managed organizational structure that Zappos has been working towards transitioning into. “Holacracy replaces the traditional management hierarchy with a new peer-to-peer operating system.” With that, Zappos aims for each and every employee to be transparent, accountable, and empowered through Holacracy.
Autumn: Zappos practices what is called “holacracy.” Holacracy is a form of self-management. It allows us as employees to really do that – self-manage. It’s been tough at times to transition to something many of us weren’t used to, but it has done great things for our company and for the individuals within it.
How long have you been with the company? What is one of the main reasons why you’ve stayed?
Amy: I have been with Zappos since July of 2015 – a little over one year! I have stayed at Zappos and continue to enjoy working for this company because I feel valued. I have also seen how much I have grown both professionally and personally, since starting at Zappos, and know that there is still so much growth and learning ahead for me.
Autumn: I have been with Zappos just over 4 years this past May. Zappos has gone through many tough and rewarding changes. Choosing to stay was not a difficult choice for me. Unlike any other job I’ve had, I feel like I can truly voice my opinions without being reprimanded. I can be my fun and goofy self and be accepted for it. The employees are taken care of and everyone supports one another. It truly feels like I work with my family.
How does Zappos support their employees’ professional development and growth?
Amy: Zappos encourages professional development both inside and outside of the company. Internally, Zappos offers classes to employees to provide the opportunity to explore other departments and opportunities they might be interested in. One of my favorite parts about working at Zappos is being able to take these classes! Different departments within the company are also always hiring internally, often times offering rotational positions, giving Zappos employees the chance to dive head first into new positions they may see a future for themselves in.
Autumn: Another core value of Zappos is to “Pursue Growth and Learning” and they definitely support everyone to do just that. There are many opportunities to learn about other departments. We have Z’Apprenticeships, bootcamps, and shadow sessions. These are all beneficial with the learning process. It’s also a great way to connect with other employees in the company that we might not get to see as often.
From the customers to the employees, Zappos wants you to know you are important and loved. Zappos values people and their experiences over all else.
How does the company celebrate successes?
Amy: Zappos celebrates successes in so many ways! Birthdays, work anniversaries, promotions, etc., are some of the many celebrations you’ll run into on any given day throughout the Zappos campus. Zappos is also known to throw a good party! From our Vendor Appreciation party to the company wide holiday party, these larger events are held to show our employees and vendors how appreciative and thankful we are for everyone’s hard work throughout the year.
Autumn: Successes are celebrated in so many different forms. Within teams, it can be confetti cannons, donuts (LOTS of donuts), zollars (Zappos form of currency), or even greater things like company-wide parties and themed events!
How does Zappos respond to and overcome failures?
Amy: Zappos sees all mistakes as an opportunity for improvement. Another one of the Zappos Core Values is to “Be Humble.” When it comes to failures, this means learning from those mistakes, welcoming all constructive criticism and doing your personal best to make the corrections or changes that you can to continue to push forward.
Autumn: Zappos handles mistakes with grace. If something is safe enough to try, we will try it. If it does not work out, there is always a way to repair what didn’t work out. Things have always run fairly smoothly.
How do you as a manager (or how does your manager) support and encourage your team?
Amy: Being a part of the Zappos Resource Desk, I am often looked to for help or guidance. This responsibility means a lot to me, so I make it a goal to give my best with every customer, both internal and external, and provide the same helpful, friendly and effective experience that I would be hoping for in return. The managers and team leads that have had the biggest impact on me have been knowledgeable, trustworthy, and encouraging people. I perform best when I have a positive relationship and open line of communication with a lead or manager.
Autumn: My lead is someone I consider a mentor. She does a great job of pushing us to do our best and is also open to feedback. Feedback is something everyone needs to help them grow.
Does the work culture differ for new hires and seasoned employees?
Amy: I feel that whether you were hired 6 months ago or 6 years ago, the Zappos culture is something that will always remain the same. Whether you are speaking with a “newbie” or a seasoned employee, anyone will tell you that the Zappos culture has always been wacky, fun, and people-inspired.
Autumn: As a large company, there have been changes over the years. Everyone experiences a different kind of new hire experience. In the end, we all make great contributions to the culture and that is what makes it so diverse and interesting.
What is one piece of advice you would give to companies looking to create a positive company culture?
Amy: Your employees matter! Creating a positive work environment where employees feel safe and encouraged to be themselves, share ideas, and speak their minds makes a world of a difference. I am a firm believer that when you are happy with your job and your work environment, your performance is better and you care more about your work output. I’ve witnessed that firsthand here at Zappos and now truly understand the importance of being happy with your job.
Autumn: Be open to feedback from employees! Let them input their ideas and work with them to implement it with negotiation. A happy employee makes for a happier company!
What makes you proud to work at Zappos?
Amy: So many things! I think I am mostly proud to work for a company that puts people first. From the customers to the employees, Zappos wants you to know that you are important and loved. Zappos values people and their experiences over all else, which is something I deeply admire and connect with on a personal level.
Autumn: Coming to a place where I know I can be myself, enjoy the work that I do, and see smiling faces while doing it makes me so proud to work at Zappos. The company is constantly doing great things to help our community. We grow every day with ups and downs, much like any normal relationship. I can see Zappos going far. Zappos makes sure each employee walks away having learned something to apply in their daily lives and for that I am extremely grateful.