What Can Education Learn From Zappos?

I just read a story about the business practices of Zappos, an online shoe retailer. The company seems incredibly focused on customer relationships through the hiring and nurturing of engaged employees. The following paragraph reports a very interesting and unique approach to their initial training and hiring process.

It’s a hard job, answering phones and talking to customers for hours at a time. So when Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company’s strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. People get paid their full salary during this period.

After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

While this is interesting in itself, I am also drawn to the larger policies and philosophies apparent in the management of this company. Take some time to listen to the following video, an interview with Bill Taylor who has recently studied the company. In your mind, try to replace customers/employees with students/teachers. There is something powerful that education can learn within this framework.

  • Alec – well, at first I was bummed that you totally wrote the EXACT post I was dreaming up on my drive home just now, but then I realized that you did me a favor! My post can now consist of: “Read this” and just point them here! Seriously, I’ve been thinking of the Zappos model as related to teaching for a few days now, thanks for writing it up and posting first! Now off to link to you at my place :-)

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  • Alec – Thanks for sharing this! I order from Zappos frequently but did not know their history. I was able to draw many educational implications from this! The most important, in my eyes, is the sense of belonging and team spirit. When kids feel that they belong, that their voices count, the buy into the educational process more. The other thing that impressed me was the power of choice! Zappos allows their employees to think for themselves and to make choices based on individual decisions. When I think of how empowered kids get with they are given that choice…. Wow~

  • Aside from the hoopla of flags and pom poms – the important message here is that the employees “own the culture” – they are asked to “Connect with the customers” and humanly exemplify what it is to be a customer service company – THAT is what we as educators should be taking away from this – but we don’t

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