Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Learning pro meets the Service Pros - Zappos Visit

I was in Vegas a few weeks ago, and took the opportunity to visit the Zappos HQ.
I got a few strange looks from the friends I was in Sin City with when I told them how I was going to spend an afternoon. They didn't see why I would want to visit a shoe company HQ.

It's a long story.
For me it started at the ASTD ICE in Chicago in 2010 when Dan Pink mentioned them in his Keynote. He talked about how their call center (called the Customer Loyalty Team) is given autonomy to do whatever they need to to make the customer happy. (In Zappos language this relates to their #1 core value. "Deliver WOW through Service")
I wanted to learn some more and so when I hear that the CEO had written a book called Delivering Happiness I bought it.
It was an interesting read and I recommend it.
I discovered a bit more about them in 2011 when the CEO Tony Hsieh was a special guest at the AIN Conference in Baltimore (OK he was in Vegas and Skyped in but we loved chatting with him)

As part of my discovery I learned that they are passionate about their culture. They have 10 Core Values that they hire by and live each day.  Each year they ask all their employees and lots of other people who are connected with them (vendors, partners even some customers) to put in writing what the Zappos Culture means to them, and then they publish the unedited collection.

Core value #5 is "Pursue Growth and Learning" and I wanted to see how a culture driven company does that. So as my wife and her friend hit the Spa I was waiting to be picked up and taken to their HQ.

Yes, that's right they were picking me up and taking me there. Not only do they open up their HQ to visitors, they even come and get you!

So my driver picked me up and drove me the 20 minutes to Henderson where their HQ is. I joined a small tour and we got taken around. The place was simply teeming with a raw energy that I've only ever seen before when like minded people are gathered to play, never at a workplace. (the closest I can think in terms of the feeling is the way people are at the AIN conference or a really lively session at ASTD ICE.)

Take a look on Google and you will see loads of pictures of what the cubes look like. Each one is pretty much unique, reflecting the person who sits in it. It's fun (and a bit weird) Core value #3 "Create Fun and a little weirdness" Allowing people to be themselves, hell encouraging them to do it, works well when you recruit the right type of people.

The Customer Loyalty Team area is in cube rows and the end cube of each row is a team leader. A huge part of their responsibility it to help the people in their group with whatever they need including helping them to learn and grow.

There are also several staircases dotted around that are covered in graffiti.(of course this is encouraged. Core value #6 "Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication")  I remember one that had lots of comments on the culture. Another one was reserved for people who had achieved a goal. Anyone in the company can go and see the Goals Coach  (I'm so sorry that I can't remember her name or her actual title). Whatever the goal, be it personal or professional she will coach them and help them succeed with it. When you hit the goal you get to put it up in that staircase.

It's just one example of the way that they live the value about growth and learning. It's not a separate value but it is one of 10 that all are entwined around each other.

I'm so glad to have had the chance to see the place and to know that one of the most successful companies out there has learning as one of its core values.

What are yours?

Happy Learning

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