Zappos employee engagement culture makes a difference for online retailer

ASeymour    October 5, 2015

Organization Name:  Zappos Inc.

Industry:  Online retailer – shoes, clothes, accessories and more

Contact:  Tony Hsieh, CEO

Web references:;  YouTube, Twitter, Social Media Examiner, Forbes

The concept: is more than just an online shoe and accessories retailer.  The Zappos Family embraces a set of core values the entire company is aligned behind, and that serves as the real impetus behind their corporate culture and employee engagement.

Tony Hsieh's book: Delivery Happiness

Tony Hsieh’s book: Delivery Happiness

As such, the company does not have a social media policy. CEO Tony Hsieh just wants staff to “Be real and use [their] best judgment”. Employees are allowed and encouraged to access their social media accounts at work as long as the customer comes first.




Not every company embraces the power and impact of enabling employees via social media.  According to a survey conducted by in April 2010, nearly 39 per cent of U.S. companies surveyed  still ban social media in the workplace and it is estimated that it costs businesses $2 billion USD in lost productivity globally each year.

Hsieh encourages his employees to use social media networks to put a human face on the company and engage with customers, including company information and opinions on their Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs in addition to their LinkedIn profiles. By enabling their employees through social media on multiple levels, they encourage a community willing to build open and honest relationships with communication, build a positive team with family spirit and, be willing to embrace and drive change – three of their core values.

The company even has a Twitter aggregate of all employee twitter feeds. This serves as an excellent word-of-mouth platform for marketing as well as recruitment – a true wellspring of community within Zappos itself and organically to their external customers.  Among them, Tony Hsieh is one of the most followed persons on Twitter with 2.75 million followers.  Employees are encouraged to use their Twitter accounts for casual communication rather than promotions or marketing pitches, in an effort to humanize the company, like when Hsieh tweeted before going onstage at a tech conference: “Spilled Coke on left leg of jeans, so poured some water on right leg so looks like the denim fade.”

ZapposInside Twitterchat






Corporate culture

Hsieh believes that by getting the corporate culture right, everything In a YouTube interview with internet entrepreneur Kevin Rose from 2012, Tony’s view on corporate culture values fuels the employee engagement movement. “Other companies focus on work/life separation, work/life balance but at Zappos, we really focus on work/life integration”.

Social media by its very nature fosters employee camaraderie, by offering a place where employees can join, share stories and get to know their coworkers better. When employees are given a sense of freedom and ownership, more often than not they respect boundaries and manage their time accordingly. From recruitment to first interviews to life inside and outside the online retail guru, employees are invited and encouraged to share, inform, entertain, inspire and mentor their fellow colleagues through Twitter and Facebook, blogs and a multiple edition of the Zappos Culture Book.

Industry experts agree – Zappos has the right idea about empowering employees for a deeper engagement throughout the organization.  Listen to the Social Media Examiner Show – How to Turn Employees into Social Media Advocates.

How they do it:


Want to see what it’s really like to work at @Zappos? We are happy to share our fun culture and show you what life #InsideZappos is all about! #careers #jobs









Zappos Family Culture blog

Sharing insights into what the culture is like at Zappos, employees are encouraged to post on the Family Culture Blog.  Darshan B – a Zappos software engineer, sums up beautifully, what the family culture at Zappos means to him, an engaged employee…

In July 2015, Darshan B, a software engineer with Zappos, wrote on the Family Culture Blog:

Loving your job!   In the Family Culture Blog, Darshan explains his journey to better understanding how his relationships within Zappos with other employees, his own relationship with the company and his own passions created a level of engagement where he truly loves what he does, who he does it with and why he does it.

Employee Engagement at Zappos – Zappos Culture Book (YouTube video)

Zappos has developed multiple editions of the Zappos Culture Book and, where content is completely generated by employee contributions.  Read below, Hsieh’s direction for participation – inspiring contributors and influencing future Zappos employees.

Zappos Culture Book – From: Tony Hsieh

It’s time to put together a new edition of the Zappos Culture Book, to be distributed to employees, prospective employees, business partners, and even some customers. Our culture is the combination of all of our employees’ ideas about the culture, so we would like to include everyone’s thoughts in this book.  Please email me a few sentences about what the Zappos culture means to you. (What is the Zappos culture? What’s different about it compared to other company cultures? What do you like about our culture?) We will compile everyone’s contribution into the book.

Continued growth and learning

Part of employee engagement is keeping new and veteran employees on a continued path of growth and learning, to foster further mentoring themselves. The Zappos Family Library provides assets – business strategy, employee engagement & leadership, happiness studies, marketing and personal development – for employee edification that they coincidentally also share with external customers.

Lessons learned

According to Forbes,  Zappos is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon (having been acquired for $1.2 billion in 2009) and its roughly 1,500 employees, headquartered in Las Vegas, produce in excess of $2 billion in revenues annually. The company diversified its portfolio and now sells not only shoes, but all sorts of clothing for men, women and children.  But how does this company, with less than 2,000 employees, continue to dominate the mainstream and social media headlines?  In a word, it’s all about “culture.”

“As you enter the building you’re inundated with “hellos.” Everywhere you look, people are smiling and when your eyes intersect theirs, it’s the friendliest smile you’ve ever received…Their collaborative mindset is infectious, one that encourages everyone to scale the culture. Positivity is ubiquitous. It’s not up to Tony or any singular team to “deliver wow”; it’s the responsibility of every Zappos team member.” – Don Pontefract, Forbes.

Operationally, approximately 600 of the employees are part of CLT – Customer Loyalty Team – where they answer between 5,000 and 10,000 calls, emails and webchat sessions every day.  only 13% leave Zappos on a voluntary basis annually, whereas 7% are let go on an involuntary basis for various reasons.  Zappos receives roughly 30,000 resumes annually.

What is the final test to true employee engagement? 

How Zappos will run with no job titles –  Zappos Holocracy – is the removal of traditional organizational structure, recently adopted in April 2015.  In the decision making process, close to 14% of employees chose a severance package over staying with the company through this change.  But for those who remain, it is a highly motivated workforce at the very heart of the organization’s success or failure!

Submitted by: aseymour, University of Waterloo

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