Cult Brand of the Year: Lessons from Zappos

Businesses aggressively strive to establish trust with their customers but often neglect the need to cultivate confidence in their workplaces. Economist John Helliwell researched the determinants of workplace happiness and found that trust is the greatest contributor, beating out pay, workload, or perks. A one-point increase on the trust scale can mean the equivalent of the psychological benefits associated with a 40% wage increase.

Online retailer Zappos embraces trust as an essential ingredient in cultivating an enthusiastic and happy workplace. Zappos made its inaugural debut at #23 on Fortune Magazine’s List of “100 Best Companies to Work for,” making them the highest-ranking initiate for 2009. For Zappos, trust is a core business value, established through a steadfast commitment to transparency. In 2017 Zappos was awarded Cult Brand of the year continuing their success with both their culture and their customer.

Here are five ways that Zappos champions trust within their organization:

The Culture Book: Zappos publishes an annual book, a compilation of employees’ thoughts and reflections on the Zappos culture. Every submission is included and edited only for spelling and typos. The book is given to potential hires for an unfiltered look into the Zappos culture, inclusive of the good, the bad, and the beautiful.

The “Ask Anything” Newsletter: Employees can ask anything about the company, even and especially about financials. Answers are compiled and published in a monthly newsletter.

Extranet for Vendors: Vendors can log in and view insider data such as inventories and sales. When asked if Zappos worries whether the information will get into the hands of competitors, CEO Tony Hsieh is not concerned. He is confident that the benefits outweigh the risks, by providing vendors a critical window into their business, promoting a sense of control, and above all else, building relationships based on trust.

Company Tours–Come One, Come All: Zappos has an open door policy and offers everyone a tour of their company headquarters. When reporters visit the headquarters, there’s no official algorithm that dictates who they can speak to and who they cannot. When you have nothing to hide, every employee is authorized to speak to his or her experience.

Social: Zappos actively encourages its employees to join Twitter, and in fact, offers the Twitter class as part of their employee orientation. Zappos policy is more of a non-policy: “Be real and use your best judgment.” Hsieh understands the power of Twitter, not just as a way to cultivate transparency, but also to empower employees and strengthen ties within the organization. Hsieh tweeted: “Twittering is like hugging. Just because it’s hard to measure the return on investment doesn’t mean there isn’t value there.”

When employees feel trusted, they tend to be happier. The pay off for companies? Greater productivity and less turnover. And when employees are satisfied, customers tend to be satisfied too.

Congratulations Zappos!

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