Today we’re hosting a guest post from a long-time friend and fellow HR practitioner. Jane Jaxon is the rockstar HR Director for a tech company in Boston. Learn more about her in the bio below the article. 

Zappos is my HR idol. I have posters on the wall, read articles about them in HR Beat, ask them to sign things – you know how these crushes go. I’m obsessed not because of their dreamy eyes or perfect coif, but because they are known world-wide for their happy employees (many of whom are in a call-center – no easy task!), clearly defined values (that they have the cojones to hire and fire by), and because they scaled culture without negatively impacting their bottom line (they still are the dominant player in their market).

I was lucky enough to tour their HQ in Las Vegas recently. They do Insights tours daily and quite literally open their doors on company culture. There were some obvious takeaways as to what makes them special – the perks, zany work environment, and tons of things they do to make work-life easier for employees – but I walked away thinking I finally get their special sauce. Hint: it isn’t what companies focus on poaching when trying to create a special culture, but it’s what they should focus on.

The Zappos secret

So what makes Zappos, Zappos? Employees really, truly feel comfortable being themselves. It’s not just a show they put on for the tour, it’s palpable. Zapponians dress in what makes them comfortable. Work stations are tailored entirely to their owner – be it a prim and proper organizational center or an ode the their favorite sports team or hobby. Work seems to be an extension of who each and every employee is as a person. Oh yeah, and their CEO is out there for everyone to run into, talk to, and approach with issues.

How can we, as HR professionals, allow and encourage employees to be themselves? It starts with the interview (maybe even before). Give candidates a chance to talk about what gets them excited outside of work … and genuinely care to hear the answer. It will let them know that they can be more than a contributor at your company – they can be a person. Boy does that make a difference!

It also comes from the top. Is the leadership team opening up and sharing a bit about who they are as people with your employees? Is your CEO accessible and open with employees? Do you celebrate your employees as people instead of just as contributors? The answers to all of the above should be a resounding yes.

Aspiring to be like Zappos is a challenge, but I’m convinced that there is a business reason to try. Recruiting gets easier through referrals and word of mouth. Happy, engaged employees will work harder, be invested in the company’s success and stick around much longer. And coming to work doesn’t feel like, well, work. Who wouldn’t want that?

About the author: Jane Jaxon is the HR Director of a high-growth tech company in Boston where she gets to focus on building a great workplace and scaling people operations. Jane’s favorite buzzwords of the trade are eNPS, talent density and (of course) people operations. She likes neither pina colada’s nor getting caught in the rain, but sure loves marathoning critically-acclaimed tv series, reading in the sun, plotting her fantasy football world domination and, lastly, keeping a stealthy social media presence. Find her on LinkedIn.

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