Jet.com, the buzzy e-commerce startup that has raised more than $US200 million to take on Amazon, has a cultural mission as wildly ambitious as its business goals: It wants to have the happiest, most empowered employees in the world.
To help it get there, Jet just hired a former Amazon HR exec, Deena Gianoncelli, to be its new chief people officer.
Gianoncelli tells Business Insider that as a long-time HR leader — besides Amazon, she’s also worked at fashion brand Vince, Bath and Body Works, Hugo Boss, and Home Depot — she’s heard plenty of CEOs say that they want “unparalleled” company culture and happy employees. Pretty much everyone says that. But even her very first conversation with Jet CEO Marc Lore convinced her that he and his company were radically different.
“Marc has such an extreme level of trust in people and he’s willing to put a lot of resources behind executing on that cultural vision in a really, really big way,” she says.
Gianoncelli is joining the team about one year after Jet’s founding. The company, valued at $US600 million, now has more than 220 employees dedicated to the goal of offering shoppers a completely transparent retail process and the the cheapest prices possible — 10-to-15% lower than anywhere else, including Amazon.
Jet can offer such big discounts because it doesn’t make any profits off selling goods, only from its $US50 membership fee. It offers savings by giving shoppers discounts when they’re products can be shipped together, they waive the right to return something, or when they use a certain credit card:
All told, Jet operates on three core values: transparency, trust, and fairness.
Those are its business missions, but it wants to bring those values into its culture too. It strives to give its employees as much freedom as possible, so no one has assigned desks or set work hours.
Lore posts board presentations online for employees to read and spends his days roaming around the office, talking to them about the company’s vision. The company tries to keep people from stressing about their salaries or titles by using a strict ten-tiered pay system that employees rise through incrementally, without the opportunity for negotiations. Even the company’s location is unusual: It’s prepping to move into a brand new office in Hoboken, New Jersey, very soon.
Gianoncelli’s mission will be to find new ways to embrace Jet’s core values and make sure that it’s still hiring people who are a good fit even as Jet’s size explodes (Lore tells Business Insider he expects to employ thousands of people within the next several years).
“We want to be at the extreme end of the spectrum,” Gianoncelli says. “Like, we don’t just want to be fair, we want to be as fair as you can imagine. More fair than anyone has ever been. That’s the goal — we’re always going to be stretching in that direction.”
Lore and Gianoncelli want Jet’s employees to feel more like a community or family members, than 9-to-5 coworkers. Jet has regular happy hours, branded bikes and free gym memberships for employees, and there’s a talent show in the works.
“It we were to create some amazingly large company that sells for billions of dollars and the employees weren’t empowered and happy, I would consider and our team having failed,” Lore says.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.