- Hollie Delaney is the head of human resources at Zappos.com. Prior to working at Zappos, she worked as the HR manager for the Wet ‘N Wild waterpark before becoming an HR generalist for Vegas.com, and then an HR manager at Marshall Retail Group.
- The following is an excerpt from her chapter in “The Power Of Wow: How to Electrify Your Work and Your Life By Putting Service First,” a collaborative book featuring the perspectives of over 40 Zappos employees.
- When it comes to figuring out who to hire, Delaney said it’s a long process. Recruiters are always looking to see if someone aligns with Zappos’ values: “Our hiring process is not just about the resumes. It’s about finding out who these candidates are as human beings,” she said.
- Employees spend four weeks onboarding. If, at the end of training, new hires decide they don’t want to stay, they can quit and get a month’s pay.
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I was fed up. I’d worked in HR for years, in a whole bunch of different environments, from a casino to a water park to e-commerce and finally for brick-and-mortar retail, and, to be frank, I just didn’t like what was I doing. I felt like all I did was enforce rules all day long, and deal with compliance issues, and tell people what they were doing wrong. There was nothing fun about it. Nothing uplifting.
I didn’t even feel like I was me when I was at work. I didn’t dress the way I like to dress. I’m a ripped jeans and t-shirt kind of woman, and at one of my prior HR jobs they made us wear stockings. Like, pantyhose. Every day. Why? Because that was the way it had always been done. Truly, there was no other reason.
When I was at work at my previous job, I didn’t act like I normally act. It was like I put on a persona when I walked through the door. Work was just a job, and sometimes a miserable job, that I dragged myself to every morning only to watch the clock in the afternoon …
So when I looked into employment at Zappos for what I truly believed would be a short stay, I grudgingly applied for an HR position. It wasn’t the whole new world I was hoping for, but I had heard they were a fun company. I thought maybe it would at least be a somewhat enjoyable place to work while I figured out how to transition to an entirely different career.
I remember one of the first things the person who interviewed me asked was, “How would your current manager describe you?”
And I replied, “They’d say I was fun, but a little weird.”
“Really?” she said. “That’s one of our core values: ‘Create Fun and a Little Weirdness.'”
“Oh,” I said, surprised and honestly a little sceptical. Zappos wasn’t widely known back then. I hadn’t heard a word about their “core values” or really much of anything else. (Turns out, they’d only just finalised the core values list that very year.)
“That’s weird,” I said out loud.
It turned out that Zappos and I shared a lot of core values, once I learned what those were. I got hired. I stuck around. I moved up the ladder to become head of HR, and, more than 12 years later, I’m still here. The job wasn’t so temporary after all!
You see, I quickly discovered that Zappos’ HR department is like no other HR department I’d ever encountered. It’s fun and a little bit weird, just like me. And it’s built on actually putting the “human” in human resources.
When you hire people who are aligned with your values and the company’s values, things just click – for the employee and for the company.
So how do we figure out who to hire?
First off, we take our time. After all, if our employees are our greatest resource, it only makes sense that we would put some serious effort into finding the right humans for our company.
The minute our recruiters start talking to candidates, from the first phone call or email through several rounds of interviews, they bring up the core values and ask behavioural-based questions to see if the candidates understand and align with those values. We dig right in to great customer service and talk about understanding change, and being humble, and taking chances, taking risks, and being ready to learn. Our hiring process is not just about the resumes. It’s about finding out who these candidates are as human beings.
When we get to a final decision phase, the candidates spend the day – sometimes multiple days – on site, getting to know the whole company. They’re given tours of the campus so they can see our values in action. They join us for lunches and after-work happy hours, just so we can see how they interact with other employees.
Once they’re hired, we put them through an extensive new-hire training (NHT) and onboarding process. Our onboarding is four weeks! Four weeks in which our new Zapponians get a deep dive into our history, our core values, and who we are as a company. And that onboarding is really an extension of the hiring process. If we decide at the end of those four weeks that they’re just not a good fit with one or more of our core values, we let candidates know we’re going to let them go; and if they themselves don’t feel that they’re a good fit for Zappos, we want them to be comfortable walking away as well. We truly want our potential employees to ask themselves, “Is this really what I want? Did I sign up for the right thing? Is working at Zappos really going to make me happy?” And we want them to ask these questions before they’re entrenched, before they wind up working for six or eight or 10 months or a year in a place they really don’t like, only to quit and put us back at square one with refilling the position.
How do we get our new recruits to put up with all of that? We give them an offer to quit at the end of training and if they choose to take that offer, they receive a month’s pay. Is that a costly process? Yes and no. A small percentage of new hires does elect to quit. And we’ve found that it’s actually cost effective, because we’re not just hiring people. We’re hiring the right people. People who have a service-first mindset. People who want to be here because we fit them, too, and who, in most cases, are going to stick around for the long haul … and hopefully make our company better for the hard work we all put in early on.
This excerpt was published with permission from BenBella Books and “The Power of WOW: How to Electrify Your Work and Your Life by Leading With Service” (October 2019).
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