I am super excited to announce that Hollie Delaney, HR manager, or actually her new title “Head of People Happiness” at Zappos, will be speaking at this year’s Global Trust Conference.
“Keeping employees at Zappos.com takes a little weirdness and willingness to make work fun”
Hollie Delaney is responsible for ‘people happiness’ at one of the largest online shoe companies in the world. That means the happiness of all its staff and of course their loyal customers is on Hollie’s shoulders, and boy does she carry it well.
This particular role didn’t come all that naturally to Hollie and required her to completely adapt her way of thinking. You see although Hollie had been in HR for many years for some highly successful companies, things at Zappos were completely different. There was a different feel to the place, it wasn’t the kind of corporate environment she had cut her teeth in. People jumping up on tables in the middle of a meeting and dancing are not things you usually hear of in the corporate world, but at Zappos this is almost the norm!
Having such an important role at this intense, high-energy company with their unique brand of HR, I think you’ll agree that Hollie has some amazing skills from which we can all learn a great deal.
In order to ensure the happiness of its staff, Zappos really does go the extra mile. In fact, when moving to their new headquarters in downtown Las Vegas, which bought Zappos closer to the famous Strip than their previous location, CEO Tony Hsieh spent $350 million to develop the entire neighbourhood so his employees would have access to great places to live and socialise too. This truly is a company that values its workforce just as much as its delighted customer base.
In keeping with its fun attitude and their proximity to the Las Vegas strip, Zappos have named all of their conference rooms after some of the famous casinos found close by. Although, I’m pretty sure there’s no gambling in these rooms as this is one switched-on company which won’t leave anything to luck.
One of the many reasons I was so desperate to do whatever it took to get Hollie to speak at this year’s Global Trust Conference was a short interview I once came across. This interview just showed me that everything Hollie has done in her career at Zappos.com to date aligns with the core message and principles we strive to deliver at the conference; building trust, relationships and connections within your business and with your customer-base, and that sometimes getting away from the ‘norm’ has truly astounding results.
So, when HR Magazine talked to Hollie Delaney about her career and how Zappos delivers happiness to its customers and its 3,000 employees, I was truly blown-away and thought you’d love to hear what this multi-billion dollar company does to build trust and relationships.
Q: Before Zappos, you worked in HR at a casino. What was that like?
A: “It was big and impersonal, with thousands of employees and so many rules between unions and non-unions. There was a rule for everything—even that I had to wear pantyhose if I worked in HR. It made it difficult to be yourself. At the time, I thought HR was not for me.”
Q: Describe your Zappos job interview.
A: “During the phone interview, I described myself as “fun but a little weird.” The interviewer said “Wow, that’s one of our core values.” I met everyone in HR and interviewed with 10 managers, including Tony. He was sitting in a cubicle alongside other employees; I didn’t know he was the CEO at first. I started crying while telling him about my “miracle baby” and thought I’d blown the job interview.”
Q: During onboarding, Zappos offers new hires $3,000 to leave if they don’t think they and the company are a good fit. Were you tempted?
A: “It was $1,000 when I started, but no. Everybody here was so happy. They were so invested in this company. You could see it, and you could feel it. I was floored. I was skeptical, but I knew there had to be something special here for people to behave that way.”
Q: How can you tell if a candidate is a good fit?
A: ”When people tour our company, they’re kind of shellshocked. Some cannot get over the fact that people aren’t in offices and it’s so loud. Or, they want to work 9 to 5 and call it a day. Our environment is not the ideal place to meet those types of expectations. A state of consistent change, the open environment and team aspect do not work for everyone.”
“We move around a lot; you get to build relationships with people you haven’t met before. You can be in senior management in four to seven years. In our call center, employees bid for different shifts every six months. You can wear pajamas or bunny ears to a meeting and be taken seriously—actually, they’re more responsive to you.”
“The recruiting team interviews candidates for culture fit and a willingness to change and to learn. They notice how applicants interact at lunch. Do they talk with others or just the person they think makes the hiring decision? Our shuttle drivers tell us what candidates say during the ride back to their hotels.”
Q: When did you know you had embraced the culture?”
A: ”It took me about a year to change from focusing on the 10 percent of employees who cause problems to the 90 percent who do not. I remember Tony wanted to let all employees give out one $50 monthly bonus to any employee they chose. My traditional HR response was “You’re insane.” I thought people would give it to their friends, but some didn’t even give it out at all: They were waiting for people to “wow” them the same way they were expected to wow customers.”
“I didn’t have any skepticism left by the time we started the Wishez Program in 2010. Employees’ wishes have ranged from asking for homemade frosted sugar cookies to wanting to jump off the Stratosphere Hotel. One worker’s wish for a car was granted when an employee bought a new car and gave him his old vehicle.”
Q: I understand you wrestled with staying in HR at Zappos. What happened?
A: ”I’d been here nearly two years. People did not like HR when I started. It had the stigma of being the Debbie Downer Department, the rules enforcer. No one wants to be a part of that.”
“HR was in a transitional period. We didn’t have a Zappos identity. I felt like an outsider looking in. Headhunters started calling me. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, where I stood with the company. I realized when I was talking to the life coach on staff that I had a huge opportunity to do something awesome at this awesome company.”
“We started asking different managers what they needed from HR. An HR generalist started sitting in each department for eight months. Now, they include us in termination discussions. We are invited to teams’ happy hours. We work with them to be part of the good things they do and not just the “You’re getting written up” conversations. Zappos’ ZCON team, which moved to HR from merchandising in January and handles areas such as reception, shuttle services, travel and concierge services, is bringing a new face to HR. I’m having fun now.”
“I could never go back to a traditional HR job. Here, our job is to educate employees. I’m more of a teacher, not a policeman. Our job is to protect the culture. If HR says “no,” it doesn’t mean no. You have to know all the rules of HR but be able to throw them out. If it’s a rule, is it a good rule?”
I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did. It’s hearing things like this confirms that putting together the Global Trust Conference so entrepreneurs, business owners and corporations can hear how the biggest companies in the world go about building trusting relationships in their organisations, is absolutely what we must do. Zappos have shown what’s possible by creating the perfect working environment and customer experience.
If you would like to come along and hear Hollie speak at the Global Trust Conference then it would be great to have you there. You can learn more about the conference and get your tickets by clicking the link here.
Don’t forget, ticket prices will go up on 1st April so buy now to grab a bargain!