Zappos’ Tony Hsieh fills passionate shoes running his happiness culture

Appreciating what we have

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” The words of businessman Friedrich Koenig who invented the high speed printing press. If alive today, in the age of the internet, he just might have applied that quote to the climate of employee appreciation which apparently runs like a red licorice string of sweetness through the company culture at on-line shoe seller, Zappos. It’s a model that actually makes you wonder if the elusive quest for work life balance, actually has some legs.

Now you can read all about it in a new book 0n the companies “Happiness Culture.” Yes, the market is flooded with happy books, but this one takes the happiness quotient a bit deeper into the workings of business and corporate America. It explores the elements of a happy workplace as one where employee empowerment is publicly held to a higher standard in contrast to the “work till you drop” atmosphere of many large corporations. Rank and file enjoy health insurance, pizza and occasional laughs and tunes along the way.

Delivering Happiness

After seeing a profile of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh on CBS Sunday Morning, I went right to the website which features his new book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose. It chronicles his rise to on-line celebrity, alongside the zenith-like trajectory of his company and the culture which exalts the human condition in the workplace. I’ve been following the company’s progress for some time and have previously reported on Zappos’s reputation for work life balance or flexibility programs. The company is known among work life trend trackers to be a leader in employee engagement and productivity.

Kudos from the Work Life Community

The company has been recognized on a number of lists to be among the “best places to work.” Fortune Magazine has thrown kudos to the company 2 years in a row. It’s also been recognized by the Families and Work Institute and the Sloan Work and Family Research Network.

I was particularly interested in a brief post at Germane Consulting on Zappos which examines the core values of the company: Souls are Paid to Learn at Zappos. The core values of the company reflect a culture which treats employees as its greatest currency and most important brand evangelists.

Passion, Profit & Purpose

CEO Tony Hsieh insists that treating employees  and clients equally well matters in the bottom line. In a video featuring his thoughts on his philosophy Hsieh said, “ Ultimately… the best companies in terms of financial performance are the ones that are able to combine profits, passion and purpose.”

Such corporate success stories stand out, especially when the company happens to be doing well financially. Zappos was acquired by Amazon last year to the tune of 1.2 billion dollars. Free pizza, health insurance, and an atmosphere where employees are “given permission to be themselves” are not meaningless “perks,” such awareness of its human capital sends a message to employees, “you are valued.”

The core values at Zappos (click here to read) sound great on paper, and there are companies out there embracing such aspirations around employee engagement and care.  Such values are the meat and potatoes of any good business book.  The difference at Zappos is that the results of aligned positive behavior, behind a passionate mission of a company, show on the spreadsheets.