Zappos CEO on Company Culture

The New York Times did a great Q&A with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh about the importance of a strong company culture present in the workplace.

What really stood out in this interview is how seriously he considers his role in developing and maintaining company culture, something many CEO’s would not necessarily find to be a priority.

So when I joined Zappos about a year later, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t make the same mistake that I had made at LinkExchange [his previous company], in terms of the company culture going downhill. So for us, at Zappos, we really view culture as our No. 1 priority. We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself.

Tony goes on to talk about how he’s involved employees, managers and especially HR in hiring the right employee to fit both the job and the culture.

Today, we actually do two separate sets of interviews. The hiring manager and his or her team will interview for the standard fit within the team, relevant experience, technical ability and so on. But then our H.R. department does a separate set of interviews purely for culture fit. They actually have questions for each and every one of the core values.

There is one thing that concerns me, however:

For example, for our offices in Las Vegas, it’s a big building. We’ve probably got 700 employees in Vegas. The previous tenants had multiple doors where you can exit, and the parking lot is in the back. We made the decision to actually lock all the doors so everyone has to go through the front entrance reception area, even though that means you might have to walk all the way around the building. The reason for that is to create this kind of central hub that everyone has to pass through to help build community and culture.

While I understand his reasoning, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to restrict methods of egress to a single exit when you have a staff of 700 people.

All in all, however, it’s very refreshing to meet a CEO who takes the softer side of business seriously.