What is the One Investment Proven to Achieve Real Long-Term Success? [Webinar with Zappos' Tony Hsieh]By Nick Stein on July 10, 2012 in The Future of Work
In business, we continually ask the wrong questions of our customers and employees. We ask: Are customers satisfied? Are employees motivated? Do they receive adequate feedback from their managers? Do they receive enough recognition? With questions like these we will only see incremental improvements, never a game-changing, entire-industry rejuvenating idea.
What is the Right Question?
Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, says we only need to ask employees and customers one simple question: Are you happy? In a webinar as part of the Rypple Leadership Series, he explained how he combined knowledge of developments in positive psychology with leading business research to come up with an easy-to-understand concept. Happiness is a fundamental human goal we are all driven toward in every decision we make, but we don’t consider company happiness as the most important metric for business success. Some may think promoting every individual’s happiness can only impede streamlining efficiency and maximized revenue, but the data shows otherwise. Besides the qualitative measure of employee happiness leading to increase employee retention and dedicated harder workers, a company with a strong vision does quantitatively better in terms of profits and earnings over longer periods of time.
For this strategy to work, companies need to carry out their vision daily, not just pay lip service to a plaque at yearly corporate meetings. It doesn’t actually matter what your core values are, what matters is that you commit to — and align everyone around — your values consistently over time. Zappos’s number one priority is maintaining their happy corporate culture.
How to Stick to Your Core Values
More than just an ephemeral emotion, for Zappos “happiness” is defined by real science as a combination of perceived control, perceived progress, interconnectedness, and following a higher meaning or vision. They follow their vision by actively hiring and firing employees based on their fit with the company culture. Even if a prospective employee is a solid performer who will undoubtedly work hard to improve profits, they will not be hired if don’t reflect Zappos’ core values. Zappos’ commitment to customer service is not empty talk. Every employee has to take customer calls on the phones for their first two weeks, no matter what department they are being hired for. This experience tangibly connects their daily tasks with the overall goal of enhancing the customer experience.
What Promoting Happiness in the Workplace Can Get You
Many companies spend countless resources and time to figure out how to better motivate employees, but Hsieh says this is fundamentally the wrong approach. Temporarily motivating employees will only lead to incremental short-term gains. Employees need to be inspired, not motivated. An inspired employee is committed to the company’s vision for the long haul who will view their job as a calling, not as a career. Hsieh asserts the only way to get an employee to stay at a company for ten to fifteen years rather than one to two is if they view their work as leading to personal growth. Each employee needs to feel like they are growing, and growing with a group of like-minded people toward a consistent vision to be truly happy at work.
Watch a web seminar with Zappos’ Tony Hsieh here: