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CEO Summit: Zappos Looks for Happiness

Tony Hsieh said he wants to keep employees excited about their jobs.

Everyone wants to be happy.

It’s the big goal in life — and should be a big goal at work, too, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh told summit attendees in a keynote address on the second night. Creating a happy workplace is crucial to building a successful company, he said.

“Having a vision that everyone is passionate about can make a huge impact on business,” said Hsieh, who has cultivated a corporate culture encouraging employees to embrace their weirdness, Twitter about argyle socks and join impromptu office parades.

Making the job about more than just work, Hsieh stressed, creates an environment that employees care about and that helps build a business they want to see succeed. That’s why, he said, Zappos — which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year — is evolving its mission beyond customer service and office culture.

Now, Hsieh said, the firm is all about delivering happiness.

“Scientific research ... shows that people are very bad at predicting what makes them happy,” Hsieh said. “The reality is, if they ever get to that point, they might be happy for a moment, but it’s almost never sustained.”

After looking at research on human behavior, Hsieh said, he found that happiness is about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness and vision, or in other words “being part of something bigger.”

He has taken those concepts and begun implementing programs at Zappos that, scientifically speaking, could lead to happiness. For example, he established a system that allows Zappos employees to increase their pay by learning new skill sets and incorporated a program that promotes staffers to slightly higher positions every six months rather than a larger move every 18 months.

Ultimately, Hsieh said, he wants Zappos employees to be invested in their jobs and committed to the company for the long haul. And since most people, he said, are simply looking to be happy — whether through finding a girlfriend or building a career — creating an office environment that contributes to that goal is a winning situation.

“It’s worth your time,” Hsieh said, “to think about the actual signs of happiness and how you can apply that not only personally but to your business and your brand.”

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