Monday, January 20, 2014

The Zappos Model

There are certainly companies that do things differently. Some of those models are ones to emulate and some are cautionary tales to run far from. Zappos, the online shoe retailer from Nevada is one of those companies which certainly comes close to toeing the line between what is cool and modern and what is just plain weird and unproductive. Here are a few examples:

Paying New Employees to Quit

Yes, you read that correctly. Zappos pays its new employees to quit. Why? Well the Harvard Business Review explains: "If you’re willing to take the company up on The Offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture–which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick–and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)"


Calling Its Executives "Monkeys"

According to the CEO, Tony Hsieh, he doesn't like the term "executive" so he instead went with "monkeys" according to the New York Times. Monkey Row is where the executives, er, monkeys sit. Why? And why monkeys? It could be because of the greenery: "The green makes you feel like you are in a rain forest. It started in our old offices, where every row had its own decoration theme and we went with a rain-forest theme. I can’t remember — maybe the term Monkey Row came up after the decorations, not the other way around."


Greeting Guests Loudly

Businessweek went on a tour of Zappos back at the end of 2009 and had this to say: "On the tour, which the online shoe retailer offers 16 times a week, staffers blow horns and ring cowbells to greet the guests, who move among the aisles in groups of 20, trying to get a handle on the company's unique culture."


Saying Goodbye to Bosses

So does this mean no more monkeys? I'm not totally sure but the Washington Post explains how this will work: "It will eliminate traditional managers, do away with the typical corporate hierarchy and get rid of job titles, at least internally...The unusual approach is called a 'holacracy.' Developed by a former software entrepreneur, the idea is to replace the traditional corporate chain of command with a series of overlapping, self-governing 'circles.' In theory, this gives employees more of a voice in the way the company is run."

So which ones do I like? Personally, I'm a fan of the last two (greeting guests and no bosses), not a fan of the first one (paying new employees to quit) and pretty indifferent on the monkey business. Why? I feel like eliminating the traditional manager culture is how many companies are going with eliminating offices and helps spur positive change. I like making guests feel like they're welcome and part of the office--it helps keep a fun environment. "Monkey" isn't exactly the most professional term but I could deal with it if people like it. But I'm not a fan of paying new employees to quit. I understand wanting loyalty, but the hiring process is arduous for all involved and to lose 10% of your newly hired employees seems like a waste. That's just my take on it but Zappos is certainly a company who does stuff differently.

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