Zappos Milestone: Company Culture

At Zappos, making work fun is as important as the work itself.

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On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?

That is just one of the questions asks prospective employees during its “culture interview,” a key part of the company’s hiring process. Other quirky queries include “What theme song defines you?” and “Which superhero do you most relate to?” If candidates get too flustered, recruiters move on.

The interview is designed to give would-be staffers a small taste of what’s to come. During its 10 years in business, Zappos has cultivated an out-of-the-box culture that permeates the entire company, top to bottom.

“Our culture is the first thing we think about,” said Chairman, COO and CFO Alfred Lin. “It’s the only long-term strategic advantage we have.”

The Zappos lifestyle is on full display at the company’s headquarters in Henderson, Nev.

While the exterior is nondescript — like any typical office park — once inside, visitors find themselves in a reception area that resembles an arcade, complete with a popcorn popper and a full-size Dance Dance Revolution SuperNova game. There are no corner offices, here. CEO Tony Hsieh and Lin sit in “Monkey Row,” where fake trees and leaves hang down over their desks.

Nearby, employees wearing crowns and sitting on thrones meet with the Zappos life coach, “Dr. Vik.” And there’s a nap room down the hall for staffers who need a break during a hectic day. Other unique benefits include free lunches, a concierge service, on-site dry cleaning and in-house massages.

“You can’t have happy customers without having happy employees,“ said Lin. “And you can’t have happy employees without a culture that empowers them and gives them a sense of belonging and makes them want to come to work every day.”

The office perks are just the beginning. Zappos encourages its workers to participate in fun and sometimes downright wacky activities while on the job.

In April, for example, staffers teamed up to celebrate Easter with the first “Zappos Peeps Challenge.” Groups crafted dioramas made out of the popular Easter candy, with themes ranging from “Brady Bunch Peeps” to “Silence of the Peeps” to the winning entry, “Peeps of Love.” This month, the company will hold its annual Bald, Blue & Tattooed event, where dozens line up to shave their heads, die their hair blue or get temporary tattoos.

And Zappos has become known for its impromptu parades, during which employees sing and dance through the office to celebrate a holiday or special event.

The unconventional team building continues outside the office. Managers are expected to spend more than 10 percent of their time with employees off-site, at hikes or happy hours or other non-business-related events.

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