3 Things Zappos HR Can Learn from Zappos Operations

Tim Sackett Good HR, Influence, Kris Dunn, Tim Sackett, Trench HR

BusinessWeek has a great article on retailing and how Zappos (and others) are following a new set of rules to succeed in their retail operations – Break the Rules the Way Zappos and Amazon Do. Ironically, I felt these “new” rules actually were great recommendations for HR Shops as well. This also probably gives you some insight on how I prefer to run an HR department, which is much more operational in nature, than your old school transactional HR shop. The primary goal of successful retailing is ensuring you control the value chain, and there are three strategic operational principles that successful retailersKD Zappos  control. From the article:

1. Provide an experience that uniquely connects consumers with the brand/retailer in such a compelling way that they become mentally addicted (think Apple Stores or Starbucks).

2. The ability to reach consumers when, where, how, and how often they want, ahead of your competition.

3. Have complete control of your value chain, from raw materials and creation through sales and consumption.

So, what can HR learn from these great retail strategies? (And these all work, by the way, regardless of your size and/or budget!)

– In HR, like in retailing, our process isn’t A to Z, or start to finish, it’s a never-ending loop. In retail you attract consumer, consumer consumes and the process starts all over. HR does the same: attraction, selection, hire, develop, retain, promote/terminate/retire, and back to the beginning.

– Great retailers want maximum control of their process. Now I know HR vendors will hate this, but great HR shops also have maximum control of their process as well. It’s how you deliver a great experience. But please remember, great control of process doesn’t mean being “controlling.”

– Provide a unique recruitment and work experience that will have people talking about you and wanting to come and stay with you.

-Don’t build processes that work for you (don’t act like you don’t do this – you totally do!) – build processes that work for those who you are going after and those who you support!

Believe me when I tell you I struggled writing one of the above four points. Anytime you tell HR to control a process – they lose their minds! Don’t think of this as pure hold-my-arms-around-this-puppy-so-it-won’t-get-away control – think in terms of collaboration over ownership. That is critical to your success!

Look, I know Zappos HR doesn’t need this advice, they have a great team over there (check out my Zappos HR take from a couple years ago – How Zappos Ruined HR with comments from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh) although I’m sure I could probably teach their Ops partners a thing or two! So, don’t give me the Zappos hater comments in the thread!  But you know – Tony never did send me any shoes! By the way – Size 9, Tony and I where Nike.

And by the way, Happy Birthday KD!